Monday, 26 September 2011


The warm tastes of spring we've been having (in between frigid cold bursts) has me looking forwards for the first time in ages. I haven't been too much of a perpetual winter whiner this year but as the sun has come out I've realised just how tightly I have been rolled up.

Watching multiple blossoms going off like crazy and wee little apricots, plums, nectarines and apples spring to life amidst our still overburdened citrus trees has my mouth watering, as do the millions of tiny parsley seedlings springing up all over the garden beds and the seeds (hopefully) sprouting on the window sill. So good to be outdoors with so much going on.

I've been holding my breath, waiting for the winter and spring cold/ear infection/asthma/hayfever/tonsilitis round to hit - but here we are on September 26 and it hasn't come. We've only had a few very mild colds this year and I feel like we may at last be making it out of infancy and into normal life.

We've also just been through parent teacher interview for Wil, designed to settle the question of the advisability of school next year. I am straining not to head down ranty alley just now because the subject of school readiness and 'holding kids back' just kills me, and its death by a thousand cuts but really, no need for that here, eh? Suffice to say it was with great joy that I ticked the 'no' box on the will you be requiring care in 2012 form at childcare. I still have to get through the local kinder discussions (cut cut cut) but I am filled with steely resolve.

What it will mean to us as family to have both kids at school is making me gag with excitement. The down side of the four and a half year age gap between the smalls has meant that for all but the shortest period their time in institutions away from family has been separate. As a parent read: total pain in the arse for dual drop offs and pick ups, conflicting timelines and schedules, diverse fundraising and working bee guilt, yadda yadda. As a kid read: aside from home, we live our separate lives. They have not yet had the experience of meeting in the playground, of being protective, proud, embarrassed, amused by each other in a public kid ruled domain.

I can't wait to see the deepening of their relationship that will come from this - even the cranky I disown you bits. Right now so very much of their time together is mediated by D and I as parents: even though we choose not to interfere whenever we can, we remain a negotiating reference point. But at school they will be slugging it out alone, relying on their sense of what's right to deal with each other.

And deep down I absolutely trust them both in these dealings. Despite being kids, with all their kidish ways, inability to articulate and selfishness, they are basically good and want good things for each other as well as themselves. Won't it be wonderful for them to realise this about each other and themselves?

On the theme of anticipation, an increasingly large part of my forward vision is getting crowded with tropical palms, hot sticky nights, ceiling fans, swimming pools and rice paddies. I did some alterations on the bathers I made at craft camp [note to self: lycra is always bigger wet than dry so make things smaller!], bought some lime green sandals on super special, bought Amy new sandals, dusted off Wil's sandals from last year that I thankfully bought too big, and am pulling the summer clothes out of hibernation for a thorough inspection.

I also made a new dress

I bought the fabric a month or so ago from Tessuti - a wonderful linen/elastine, with a crisp papery feel in a wonderful shade of tomato red. I had no plan in mind when I bought it but when I spied a pinafore dress in the latest Ottobre with gathered pocket detail I locked it in. Love the pockets truly madly deeply.

I had to alter the pattern quite a bit (it was afterall designed as a sleeveless winter garment to be worn over layers) - for a start they didn't make it in my size so I had to scale the pattern up 2 sizes. Next I added a lot of length (the original was well above the knee), drafted sleeves to keep sunburn at bay and added a band for the neck to replace the pattern facings. Because of the elastine I was also able to skip the zip in the centre of the back which was less work, but also gives a softer more comfortable line as befits a dress made for a tropical holiday.

I'm not sure what else I might be needing to get done before we go - the inventory of last year's clothes will alert me to any last minute sewing needs. It's proving a little hard, despite the excitement, to get my head around packing enough hot weather clothes to last two weeks whilst sitting beside the fire and knitting for all I'm worth.

I'm also doing a bit of contemplating of having some bespoke leathergoods made whilst away - particularly a leather version of my standard handbag. Wondering if I should (a) make and take a pattern and (b) make and take the lining in order to preserve my patented nerd pocket placement system™. Wondering if I should get something else made too or instead or not at all. Wondering how much I will (a) hate going shopping for this as it will entail a trip to the most horrible loud touristy part of the island and (b) be disappointed if I feel like I could have made it better myself and beat myself up for letting capitolism suck me in AGAIN. It would, however, turn out to be a really wonderful experience to find someone who loves their work, essentially a craftsperson managing to work and live as they choose, who could collaborate on something with me, based on my needs and their skill. Maybe? Dreaming?

What I am not anticipating with anything like good humour is six hours on a plane. With kids. I hate flying at the best of times but keeping Wil in a seat for six hours is unimaginable.

Friday, 16 September 2011


I've been dashing along on the new jumper.

I dyed the yarn, the last of my aran weight posmerino from the Knittery (RIP Knittery, we miss you!) with the help of Jules (thanks Jules!). Actually, I dyed it twice since the first round of grey/black/blue/green just wasn't even enough to give a quiet transition between skeins. I now rather like it, reminding me as it does of an inky sea with flashes of blue and green from the depths.

It's based on a Diance Soucy pattern (author of the oft made hoodie - here, here, here and here) for a cowl neck jumper, though of course I'm messing with it. In fact really, I'm mostly using it for the cast on stitches which is shockingly lazy since I could well have done some maths and saved the cost of the pattern. But her patterns are so wonderful - I don't begrudge supporting someone who makes solid, reliable, well fitting patterns, even if I feel the need to mess with them.

So, I added a bit of extra shaping in front as well as the side shaping in the pattern and overall added less ease. The yarn pooled badly twice - firstly just before I started the shaping and then again as I finished it - leading me to the very overdue realisation that when I knit my hip measurement it is an almost perfect match for a factor of the skein size and pooling is INEVITABLE. So there was a lot of breaking and rejoining of yarn to try and minimise the splotchy thing.

Next I decided that instead of a rib band at the hem I'd do a band of herringbone and repeat it for the cowl neck. I'm very happy with all that except the cast off looked awful.
Because herringbone is done using very big needles and every stitch gets knitted twice I couldn't use a regular cast off or I would have had a row of big floppy stitches. But casting off in herringbone left me with a very uneven and loose cast off and after a few hours of staring at it and cursing I decided to try a round of (US) single crochet through the cast off stitches to see if I couldn't neaten it up.
I'm much happier now, though only wear will tell if the crochet is enough to stop it rolling out when I wear it.

I'm crossing my fingers that there will be enough yarn for good long sleeves as well as a giant roll neck. I'm a wee bit nervous.

And then of course, since the jumper is now too enormous for discrete commuter knitting I had to cast on the left over Elsa wool cormo from the Harvest Moon Cardi to start a long overdue Wool Peddler's shawl. A delight to knit, so squishy and warm and woolly.
It's making me all the more excited about the success of the Ton of Wool project - soon I'll be knitting aussie cormo! So so exciting!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011


This dish is so simple I hesitate to even call it a dish. It's embarrassingly simple, more an idea than a recipe really. But gosh, it tastes really good. It's a meat only dish - served as part of a mixed array in a shared meal.

Everyone likes this dish - it isn't spicy and although it has a strong flavour it is not sharp or bitter or especially garlicky or in any way challenging. My kids adore it almost as much as me.

I first had this when my Thai friend Aor cooked it at my house and on her next visit to Australia, some 4 years later asked if I would like her to cook it again. Clearly I had made my feelings about her cooking known.

When she went back to Thailand I was keen to reproduce it so I asked her for the 'recipe' and this is what she sent:

Subject: garlic chicken
fried garlic first then put chicken in, then put oyster oil, soy bean sauce, Maggi dipping sauce (if you have), pepper, sugar a bit. That's it perfect. Yummy...Let's do it.

I love this - its so quintessentially Thai. It's not about the quantities, there's even flexibility about the ingredients you have. It's all about the yummy taste and the just doing it! With exclamation marks because it's perfect! And fun! Arroy mark mark!

So with only slightly more precision, here's how I make it.

Garlic Chicken

Peanut oil, 1 tablespoon

Finely chopped garlic - lots. As much as you can be bothered chopping. I probably ideally use 7 or 8 cloves but you could use less or more as you felt inclined.

300-500 gms sliced chicken breast (thigh is also good but the sauce component is quite juicy so the drier breast does well.)

Oyster sauce, maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons

Soy sauce, about 2 tablespoons

White pepper, a few shakes

Sugar - maybe a teaspoon

Heat the oil in a small wok or fry pan and toss in garlic. Don't turn the heat up so high that the garlic burns, and keep stirring.

After a minute or two add the chicken. Keep it moving in the pan, you might want to turn the heat up a little here.

When the meat is just cooked through add the sauces and salt and pepper, adjusting for taste. You may alter the ratios quite a lot to get the flavour you like best - that's OK!

Serve with rice and veggies or salad.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Seven newish machine knitters, a gun for hire, a Sunday lost in the art of learning.
A new garment, some new techniques, a lot of tips and tricks won from experience.
Two strands of alpaca 3/21 and one of superfine merino 2/28, worn upside and downside.
Many thanks to Bri for leading us in the journey (natural born teacher!) and Teegs and Lara for loaning the studio space.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


I said it already I know but people, PEOPLE!

I'm trying hard not to swear here - but for goodness sake!


I've put a little widget there in my sidebar ===>
just so I can watch the numbers during this, the eleventh hour.

Given all the people out there
the knitters
the supporters of local manufacture
the spinners
the greenies
the country folk
the environmentalists
the anti capitalists
the aussie centrics
the lovers of rare breeds
the lovers of super soft wool
the community minded
the joiner inners
the yarn and tops hoarders

Surely, SURELY there's enough of us to raise $33,000? I mean it's not like they want your money just for the feel goods - you get yarn or tops for pete's sake. It's entirely guilt free purchasing so what the hell is stopping you?