Thursday, December 30, 2010

So far it's been a quiet and somewhat lonely holiday season here at Chez Swanknitter. I treated myself to a Christmas feast of a selection of cheeses and smoked salmon with crackers followed by brownies, accompanied by a cleanskin Reisling. Today was the first really hot day of the summer, that is, hot enough to turn on the a/c. After all the rain earlier in the season, right now we could use some. The berry bushes are covered in black jewels of flavour. I made a batch of jam, but I've also enjoyed several bowls of berries with cream. These are loganberries and some boysenberries. Their new growth is so enthusiastic this year that it's hard to get near to pick them.

The past few days I've had a recurrence of the knee problems I had before my replacement. I have no idea what has caused this, but the knee is sore and the muscles are spasming again. I think I overdid a bit in my rush back to normalcy and need to take it slower. It's very difficult when so many things cry out for attention not to get into action. My major downfall and character flaw.

I finished In Defense of Food, which should have been a magazine article instead of a book. If you've read The Omnivore's Dilemma, you will know what Michael Pollan is about. I believe him and would like to follow his precepts, except sometimes is difficult to eat the right food when you don't know where it has come from or how it was grown. That's one reason I'm so passionate about my veggie garden. I started The Algebraist by Iain M Banks but my hands struggled with its size. This is the first time I am seriously considering buying the Kindle edition of something I own in paper. I am reading Kathy Reich's Mortal Remains on the Kindle instead.

I think I've reached my destination in the family tree business, altho there is still lots to do yet. I got back to William the Conqueror thru yet another bastard line. So lots of baronets and influential Normans in the tree but I don't need to go any further back than that, but need to document the intervening links. Fortunately there seems to be a fair group of fellow genealogists working the same lines.

On the fibre front, I am knitting socks for myself out of the merino & bamboo blend I spun recently, I am knitting a winter scarf for X2 out of various natural coloured wools. It's knit the long way so there are stripes for each new yarn, It's in seed stitch and is almost done so I'll get a photo before I post it. I could not face any more alpaca to spin so poked around in the stash and pulled out a gorgeous hand painted rope of BFL (blue-face Leicester) in gorgeous mossy greens. It's from Briar Rose and of course it's a dream to spin. I have to pace myself with the spinning and knitting because altho I love doing both, my hands often tell me the next day that I over did it. See a pattern here?

Over the holidays I learned that another dear friend of mine going back to grad school at UNC had passed away the day after my sister. She was only 72. She was first an instructor when I was studying African linguistics, and helped me learn Hausa, which is an extremely difficult language. I got good enough that I could read literacy pamphlets and write simple stories but I am sure I don't retain a single word. She became a friend and we kept in touch through the years. I was unable to meet with her on my last trip to Chapel Hill due to family obligations (hers) and now I know I missed the last chance to see her. She was one of the friends I was hoping to move back to be near.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I haven't died but haven't had much interesting to post about. Canberra has had epic rain and many plans to do things in the yard went by the wayside as I watched horizontal rain hurl itself at my house. I am still doing knee recovery and I had a minor set back as I fell in the front yard and landed on the bad knee. I only tripped and I landed softly but there is now a swelling on my swelling and a faint purple tinge. I've also had many nights when I didn't get to sleep before 3AM which puts a dent in the following day. I thought I'd share some photos today from recent activities. The cupcake tree is from J's 40th birthday party which was 2 weeks ago. I thought both the concept and the photo were nice. I've also been to the movies twice, once for Tron Legacy which I was underwhelmed by but D liked. Yesterday J and I attempted to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and got booked out of the first place we went so had to fill time with eating pizza and other things until we could go to a later screening. It was raining and everyone decided to go to the movies. As we sat in traffic betwen pizza and movie, the thermometer at the ABC office said is was 9C. That is NOT summer weather in Canberra and, while I'm very glad of the rain for my garnden, some sun would be welcome too. It's supposed to get nicer this week before the next wet front hits us on Christmas Day. The movie was very good even if it's a shock to see Harry Potter all grown up. I have also acquired the extended version of Avatar on DVD which should give me something to watch over the holidays.

The socks at left are my latest FO (finished object) and are knit out of a yarn called Tofutsies which has both soy and cotton in it. They are very soft and will make good summer socks, should we ever get summer. The Aran vest is on the home stretch as I finish off the seed stitch borders on neckline and sleeve openings. I've promised X2 a scarf knit out of the various different natural coloured wool I've spun so I rounded up 5 different wools, and two colours of alpaca.

The photo at the top was taken in 1915 in Niagara Falls, New York, and is of my grandmother Charlotte Rhone Hotchkiss and her mother Josephine Tyler Rhone. The genealogical trail has been my main occupation while it rained. All the American ancestors are well and truly documented and I definitely go back to Massachusetts in 1635. I am still on the trail of the further back and trying to untangle the mess that people have made by entering wrong data on Ancestry. My librarian self wants to do authority control on all these names, when the Radcliffs spelled their name 4 different ways. I thought I was descended from the Count of Anjou but it seems that the person I am really descended from was (ahem) born out of wedlock, but, as things happened back then, still was an influential Norman ruler. I am hoping that whoever did the research on these folks on the Wikipedia knows what they are talking about because I'm taking their word for some of this. Of course, there are the occasional clanger like someone born in England in 1011 and supposedly died in Zimbawe. Don't think so. They were still in "the world is flat" zone in those days.

I read Janet Evanovich's latest on my Kindle and will start Kathy Reichs soon. Meanwhile I'm read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I promise to give up junk food next year now that I know what some of the ingredients do to you. I'm basically a cook from scratch person so I don't eat a lot of the food products he describes and I definitely eat a lot of fresh fruit and little meat. I never eat fast food like McDonalds and I don't count artisan pizza (or home made) as junk. I have some guilty pleasures because I like the crunch of chips but I must be strong. Not to mention I need to shed weight gained while I was not allowed to get any exercise. I hope I'm allowed some fresh berries with cream because I've got LOTS of berries.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It's been more resting of the knee and therefore not much to write about. I am desperate to clean house and work in the garden but am forbidden. Meanwhile I've been burrowing away on Ancestry and to my utter astonishment have multiple lines on my mother's side that are traced back not just to the founding of New England but back 600 years of English history to the Norman invasion. I find this completely mind-blowing. Apparently (the documentation search will now follow) I am descended through a semi-noble class of folk, not high enough to be more than a Sir or a baron but someone who was sheriff of an area or the king's representative. I have been plowing through a whole branch of the Dean family, who leased part of the Forest of Dean from the king and paid him 3 shillings a year for it. Many branches are from the western part of England, Shropshire, Cornwall, etc. although there was one branch that ended up on the Welsh side. You may address me as the Baroness de Corbet. Ha. At least I would have had servants.

Canberra has had almost 2 weeks of rain. Sometimes downpours, sometimes passing showers, but more rain than I have seen in 20 years. We have full reservoirs for the first time in a very long time. My plants all look healthy although I now do battle with snails. I've had several lovely suppers with mounds of fresh peas which do taste better than frozen. If only you didn't have to plant so many of them to get a decent serving. I've also had a few bowls of strawberries & cream. The jasmine has popped into bloom making the yard fragrant. I'm about to start getting berries as the first of the canes on the front of the shed are beginning to turn dark, and it is usually around Christmas when I'm drowning in berries. I turned some of the lovely rhubarb into a delicious cake for J's birthday. Rhubarb and berry jam?

I have also spent a lot of time not sleeping, as in going to bed at the usual time of around 10.30 PM and still being wide awake at 2AM, or 4AM, night after night. It's thrown my whole body out of rhythm and nothing seems to help. I take the normal dose of sleeping tablets that are supposed to work within an hour and read my BBBB, but nothing happens. Said BBBB is currently Collapse by Jared Diamond, who wrote Guns, Germs, and Steel, another great work of social history. So I get up and try to do something boring. One night I was washing dishes and cleaning the stove at 2 AM. Sometimes it's genealogy. I end up sleeping the morning away to make up.

Otherwise I am glued to my Kindle reading Neal Asher's Polity Agent. He writes the most energetic and imaginative space opera and it's always fun to read his Cormac novels. I've got another one on the Kindle along with Janet Evanovich's latest and the same of Katheir Reichs. I must address the paper book backlog soon.

I have spun some brown alpaca and need to ply it. I've almost finished a pair of summer socks and am in the home stretch on the brown vest. I looked at the black alpaca and think I probably need to card it, becase it isn't long enough and is too slippery to spin from the lock. I am going to sign up for the weaving course at the ANU that I took before, this time working on a project, either double weave or a complex twill. A double weave table runner might be something good to do with supervision. The same teacher will be there so I am in good hands. Classes don't start till March so I can do some looking for projects in the meantime.