Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What does one do on a day when the top temperature is destined to be 35C? You make phone calls, read, and, apparently, blog. There is no "news" as such unless you count hanging one panel (out of four) of new lace drapes in the dining room. The old ones were in the house when we moved in 16 years ago and the sun has begun to take its toll. I wanted lace curtains that weren't violently floral but the combination of that desire and the fact that I need a long drop (floor to ceiling) narrowed my choice. The ones I got are one step away from sheers, but with the block-out drapes behind them, they will do. However, getting up on a stool and balancing to hang them almost crippled me with both knees and ankles complaining to the extent that I could barely walk yesterday. I'll wait a few days before doing another panel.

For those of you who like to dye, or choose colours for weaving, or just the have fun, I direct you to Adobe's free site Kuler. You can create a panel of 5 colours from a colour wheel, from letting the computer select colours to go with one you choose, or upload a picture and choose colors from that. I think it's really nifty especially to someone as colour-challenged as I am. I may like a colour but choosing others that go well with it is beyond me. One thing I found very interesting is that the "favorite" colour panels all seem to be muted tones. Even when one searches "bright", the panels retrieved (by tags assigned by the creator) all are greyed and pale. Is this a trend among designers? Are people no longer interested in saturated colours? I am, although I do prefer my surroundings to be on the soothing side. These colour panels can be downloaded to Adobe software but I find them helpful, just to see what would be complementary colours, or whatever.

Book report: I have been reading mysteries which are the equivalent of bonbons (and I don't even know what they are) and I won't review them. Michael Connelly is at the crease at the moment. A book I picked out for BBBB turned out not to be boring (let alone big) was
Heat by Bill Buford. I've always wondered what went on in the kitchen of fancy restaurants and I don't want to know from Gordon Ramsay. Since Bill is an established writer but starts out as "kitchen slave" mincing vegetables and watching what goes on, you learn from the bottom up. I almost wish it weren't an Italian restaurant he was apprenticed in, because I love Italian food and some of the menu items made me swoon. I have never had any desire to eat polenta before but now I'd like to try it. Not needing restaurant sized proportions I went looking for a recipe. Not in Marcella Hazan? Not in the New York Times Cookbook? Joy of Cooking says it's the same as corn meal mush? I know they sell here 2 grades of cornmeal, one labelled polenta. I finally found what I needed in a book I was sucked into by a podcast, namely Lynne Rossetto Kasper (The Splendid Table) and The Italian Country Table. I may have to seek out the best cornmeal, because I import cornmeal for cornbread, etc. which is a finer grind. And, needless to say, I am not making it when the temperature is 35 and I can't stand up for long. Her recipes for Polenta with cheese and balsamic vinegar sounds heavenly. Just what I need, another high carb "staple" to add to the brown rice, yellow rice, couscous, potatoes, pasta, bulgur. cornbread... I think it might be easy to give up meat which those to choose from.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The word for today is humidity. We have had a series of thunderstorms pass through and the last one left its moisture behind and the humidity went up to (for us) a shocking 60%. Boy, my joints hurt. I could barely walk. As I have been sitting here wasting time online the humidity has dropped to 42% and I feel much better. This is one reason why I love Canberra most of the time. The cockatoos that have been screaming since daybreak are not one of the reasons. I found out I was blaming the wrong parrot for decimating my pears; it was the big white ones who were eating them green, not the rosellas.

Since it has been too hot to knit anything but socks (Regia Bambu), I have been spinning and carding alpaca. I have a bag full of fluffy white clouds to spin, but not while sitting in front of a fan. I am plying Susan's Clematis Vine Targhee and will probably go back the the Bendigo purple after that, since it's out and waiting for a matching bobbin to ply. I do love spinning. Since the forecast is for over 30C for the next week, I don't think I will be knitting on CAW.

While I continue to be on a yarn diet despite the lovely fibre cast up on my computer screen, I have bought 2 books in the past 2 months. One is Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. All but a handful of her knits are top down, and if I weren't already consumed with top-down-desire, this book would make me want to jump right in. (not till it gets cooler) Every design also has some nifty and unusual kink to it, some are decidedly retro, others have unusual details. I am a big fan of Saddle A-line and Slinky Ribs. I haven't tried a scoop neck on and don't know how they'd look on me. The cover design is a Scandinavian style yoke sweater that's been steeked from the neck down and laced back up. Radical, babe.

The second book is Continuous Cables by Melissa Leapman. You know anything Melissa designs is wonderful and her last was Cables Untangled, which I can't remember whether I own or not. Anyone who has read this blog knows I am a cable addict. This book has both wonderful patterns and a stitch dictionary of cables at the back. I'd love to knit the Stowe Cabin Throw Rug but I have a feeling the Imp would disintegrate it quick smart (as she attempts to do with the cheap Oriental throw rug in the entryway on a daily basis). The Tweed Hoodie and the Swirl pullover are both yummy and the Tweed Boyfriend Sweater would suit me too, without a boyfriend to give it to.

The Imp nearly gave me a heart attack earlier in the week when I came back from picking blackberries in the back yard and found the front door blown open. I called and called and went all though my yard and next door's (who are away) and was about to write her off as lost. I sat down on the front porch, close to tears, and called and called. I heard a sound like metal scratching on something and there she was. I think she used one of the grills they place in foundations here to prevent dampness under houses to go to the dark side. What is it with under the house? She's now all excited when I try to go out the front and has to be sternly addressed, sometime pushed away and sometimes locked behind the bi-fold doors to the kitchen.

I did stay up to watch the inauguration Weds morning (our time) and was so blown away with the crowds on the Mall. One of the CBS commentators said the shot of the day was a wide shot of the Mall with flags waving vigorously. Whole families, people who wanted to be there because this was History which a very emphatic capital H. I thought Obama read his speech too fast for the audience to absorb it but he may have been cold. Fortunately the next day was an off day for me so I slept all morning. Certainly a more impressive spectacle than the newly formed cabinet being sworn in by the Governor General. Another example of the US being a nation of the people. Lots of folks I know here either stayed up or watched the replay, which was probably the first time most of them saw the process.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This blog seems to becoming weekly, but not by design. We had another blast from the central desert this week with a few days of 37C and this time it didn't cool off at night. It was pretty miserable and one could do is sit in front of a fan. The Imp became very flat and sprawled out on the lino. So I didn't do much either, went into work later, came home later, to avoid the hot box of the house. I also had the stitches removed from my scalp and now only have a scab (so I'm told since I can't see it). I spent way too much money getting my knees X-rayed before I see the orthopedic surgeon. But if his fee is too high, I will have to postpone the surgery until the super mess is sorted out. I do not want to hit my savings any more.

This week it seems to be fibro fatigue that is hitting, perhaps because of the heat. I just get so sleepy and intend on taking a short nap, but end up sleeping all afternoon. I feel like I'm sleeping my life away, which is why I am not accomplishing the things I want to. The only progress on the fibre front is that I have spent the last two evenings carding alpaca. This is more to do with removing stuff from the dining room table than anything else, but I do want to spin some more, because I gave the bulk of what I had spun the BFLB. I have finished spinning the 4 oz of Clematis Vine colourway Targhee from Susan and I think it will turn out to be a firm and bouncy yarn and good for socks. I always like my spun fibre to rest a few days before I ply it or take it off the bobbin. It may be an old spinner's tale that it helps to do this, but maybe I just like looking at the bobbins while they are resting. It's been too hot to have the entire front of a wool jumper in my lap to knit.

I got caught up (almost) with Weavecast and Syne has had some outstanding interviews. She had the incredible luck to interview Peter Collingwood shortly before he passed away. He was such a towering figure in the weaving community and altho I will probably never weave rugs (altho I'd like to) his book on rug weaving covers much more than that topic. Syne does a great job putting the podcast together and she deserves any help you can give her so if you can spare a few dollars, it would definitely go to a good place.

As any of you who read this blog regularly will know, I am a podcast junkie. I currently have about 150 podcasts on my iPod, covering everything from science to cooking to weaving to society. I listen at work, I sometimes listen in the car but that's sometimes awkward if I'm stopping and starting, and I listen at home while I do housework. It's almost like reading while you do something mindless but necessary with your hands. I listen to a lot of public radio: ABC Radio National, NPR and the BBC. Sometimes I can't imagine life before the iPod.

I think I've solved The Imp's fussy eating problem. It turns out she adores kangaroo, even the stuff that's been marinated in herbs and garlic. She has inhaled the first batch I put down, asked for more, ate that and asked for more again. She's lucky that the was the only red meat I had in the house, and I'm lucky that I finally found something she will eat.

I will be up late Tues night/Weds morning to watch the Inauguration. Too bad it's so cold in DC but I remember inaugurations in the freezing cold, even when there had been snow pushed away to get access. This is Important.

And thank you all, whoever you ar for turning the counter over to 13,000 hits. I truly appreciate it and that you find my rambings interesting.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

In tidying the studio I had to put recently (relatively) acquired spinning fibre in a new plastic box. I say relatively because some of these had been hanging around since long before I went on my trip and some I acquired on the road. Here are the prettiest of the braids. Left to right:
  • Bluefaced Leicester from Flawful fibers
  • Superwash merino from Laughing Rat Studios
  • Shetland from Laughing Rat
  • BFL from Briar Rose
  • Corriedale from Laughing Rat
  • BFL in green/rose and rust/red from somebody at Rheinbeck I now forget!
I also have quite a bit from Susan at The Spinning Bunny because LA and I made a foray into the woods near Ithaca and entered her den of wonders. I have 8 oz of merino & silk in a colourway called Earth rose which is pink and grey and white and black. I am spinning her Clematis Vine colourway at the moment which is green and blue and white. I have to find an empty spindle (ha) so I can spin the other half and ply. My favourite craft of all is spinning but one then has yarn that needs to be done something with. So far I've given more away than I've knit but I have enough here, plus all that alpaca so I can actually made something beyond a hat or socks. Four ounces is not enough to make more than a pair of socks and some of those braids are only 4 oz.
I may have said this before, but I have come to the conclusion that Australia doesn't have a climate, just random events of weather. The middle of this week, we were gripped in a spell of 36C and I went back into the routine of closing up the house as soon as the sun got on it, and keeping it closed until the outside temperature dropped below the inside (about 26C). Then two successive fronts went through in a matter of a day and it plunged to 18C and I was glad I hadn't ever taken the wool blanket off the bed. What effect this has on my poor garden I don't know, because everything is so pitiful this year. I will be lucky to get a cucumber by February, and because tomatoes only set fruit within a certain temperature range, I don't know if I will see any of them. I have been weeding and fertilizing and watering, but it may be a lost cause. The snails ate my rhubarb seedling.

I have been experimenting with "social networking" and have joined a couple of sites looking for somebody with the same interests but so far have come up pretty empty. Most of the sites are geared towards teenagers and while us golden oldies are there, the population is low and I have no idea whether I have anything in common with these folks. I did get an invitation to join a group of over 50 Italians, so maybe I can talk about cooking with a real Italian (great for a diet). Speaking of which, in my diet of fish and veggies, I got to try fresh sardines from the markets yesterday and all I can say is yum. Grilled, they were a treat, but the Imp didn't think so. Fussy, isn't she? She's now eating Science Diet instead of nice fresh sardines.

I spent time in the studio yesterday and unloaded the top of the workspace from all the accumulated stuff that had landed on it am ready to see if there is room to shift it down the wall to gain access to the Big Loom. If not I will have to completely rearrange furniture which I am not looking forward to.
I really just want to get access to the table loom and my sewing machine so I can hang the curtains in the dining room. The original lace curtains (which were there when we bought the house 15 years ago) have more holes than is decent (UV damage) and I bought very plain continuous curtaining to replace them but I still need to hem them.

Cables After Whiskey is up to the neck shaping! I only hope I have enough yarn for the sleeves...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Firstly a belated HAPPY NEW YEAR! For the first time in many years I stayed up to watch because I was sucked into the hype on TV about how wonderful they'd be. And they were. I almost think watching them on TV is better because the display covers most of the inner harbour and one can't see it all from ground level or even from a high rise. Also, on this night, it was very still and the smoke just hung in the air. It would have impeded the view for those on the ground. I love to watch stuff come off the bridge but you have to be facing the bridge to get the full effect. At any rate, I ate cheese & crackers and spreadable smoked salmon and drank a margarita instead of tacking the full bottle of bubbly in the fridge.

My apologies for the gap in posting (you must be really tired of hearing that). My dear MIL came up for the weekend between Christmas and New Years and for the most part I have been busy with other things. Exciting things like weeding and tearing out ivy, pruning the plum tree, picking berries and making jam, untangling financial stuff that had piled up while I was gone, doing laundry and ironing, you get my drift. Today I am due to mow the lawn but we've suddenly had a cold front go through and it's bloody cold out. No good for hurrying along tomato plants. I planted some watermelon and pumpkin is the vast emptiness but they would really like hot weather. I've had poor germination on beans as well, so this may be a very sparse year.

I am reading Peggy Osterkamp's third volume in her series New Guide to Weaving which is Weaving & Drafting your Own Cloth. This is about how to weave, and boy I wish I had read it before I went to the Weavers School. I was such a total newbie. I didn't know how to sit down and weave cloth, because I'd never actually done it (a scarf doesn't count). I'll admit the section on troubleshooting and all the things that can go wrong is daunting because I'm positive every one of them will happen to me, but everything I've read to far has been helpful. Mind you, she has her prejudices, but every weaver does and you just have to try and get more and more opinions and examples.

P.S. Mowed lawn, took out the "lady's chainsaw" and cut up the piece of dead plumcot into pieces small enough to get into the traskpack, cut down 2 of the main offending shrubs in my neighbour's back yard (with his permission) but the chain jammed and my skill with a chainsaw was exhausted, mulched zucchinis (flowering) and cucumbers (flowering) and fertilized them, watered the citrus, rescued a pot of portulaca that had been sitting totally neglected since before I went overseas and managed to divide and plant 5 seedlings. I swear you cannot kill portulaca. It will be perfectly happy and flower its little head off in a terracotta tub for the rest of the summer whether I water it or not.