poor blog

jumperband

Poor blog.

It has been terribly neglected. I keep changing my mind about its existence. Maybe life is just a little more busy at the moment than it usually is. I have given up on resolutions (aims) regarding frequency of posts. Maybe I will make a better effort next year.

When I began the blog, I had decided that I would no longer email a friend who lives in the same city, but I had not seen for seven years despite many suggestions of meeting for coffee, at times and locations that would suit her. I used to email her and not be bothered that I was not seeing her because she had depression, and assumed there was something about me that had her not wanting to meet up with me, yet wanting to maintain contact through email. However, she was meeting up with plenty of others, particularly over the last two or three years, so I decided it was time to end the relationship (in that wimpy delayed response to emails way, rather than through a direct message), and by Christmas it was over.

I assumed the time I had spent emailing her could be spent writing blog posts. Hahaha.

My friend with a brain tumour (diagnosed over nine years ago, so pretty amazing) has reached the manky stage, where it is affecting his mobility, and he requires more frequent treatment, and needs to avoid exposure to infectious agents. So instead of writing blog posts, I have been writing emails to him. He has been largely housebound. I know he spends a lot of time on the couch, in front of the television, and I find that unbearable. My mother used to burst into the lounge room when we were children, asking “What are you doing?” and then noticing us looking at the television, would answer the question herself, in one of two ways: “Oh, nothing” or “Wasting time again”. I cannot believe how much I have been influenced by that. So I indulge in crazy email composition, hoping I will motivate my friend to shuffle outside to breathe some fresh air, enjoy what little sun there is, watch some birds, and so on. Or that I will just remind him that he is still alive, that he is not just some blob on a couch absorbing whatever is shown on the screen in front of him. I don’t want him to ‘waste’ the rest of his life. And in all that, I am very much aware of how judgemental I am being, with my idea of what constitutes living and what does not. So I do not mind that he does not respond to my emails, or at least not very often. He is going through one of the many versions of ‘unimaginably horrible’. At least with email, if I am annoying, he can just delete the messages, unread.

So I am undecided about the blog. There is always too much to do.

I did pull out the jumper I was knitting, just after I wrote about it. I cast it on again, knit the band, then noticed I didn’t feel like working on it. I was sick of it, and it seemed to take so long to knit around to the marker. So I set it aside, and very quickly knit a jumper for my son – his classroom is not heated, and he has noticed that his jumper is much warmer than his polar fleece jacket (probably washed too often), so he needed a second one to accommodate washing needs. I returned to my jumper, knitted more than halfway to the armholes, decided it was too big, and pulled it out again. I think it will be okay this third time. I changed the band, and I am happier with it, and not bothered by the knitting.

Crochet squares keep appearing too, even though I am not sure when I am making them. Just a few minutes here and there.

crochetsquares

This square:

4 ch ring

Rnd 1: 12 treble (or equivalent) in ring

Rnd 2: 2 treble (or equivalent) in gap between each treble of first round

Rnd 3: (2treble, 3 chain, 2 treble) in first space; (2 half treble) in next 2 spaces – repeat to beginning of round.

Note: round 3 can look better this way:   (2 treble, 2 chain, 2 treble) in first space, (1 chain, 2 half treble) in next 2 spaces, 1 chain – repeat to beginning of round.

I just wanted 11 stitches per side for compatibility with the other squares I have crocheted, so mine are the less attractive version. And ‘equivalent’ is shorthand for all that writing about starting a round with two or three chain instead of a treble. It makes patterns messy for me. Similarly, rounds end with a slip stitch, to complete them.

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uncluttering poor ‘investments’

bearatzoo

Some variations on the ‘don’t throw good money after bad’ theme.

Why is it so hard to pull out a good chunk of knitting when an error is first realised? I am knitting a jumper that was almost no effort, just mindless knitting of a tube on a circular needle in those odd moments when I was sitting with my hands otherwise unoccupied. It seemed to take no time to knit 200 g of wool, then a little more to reach the point of armhole division. Then came the realisation that I should have had more stitches, not a lot more, just a few, but enough to make the jumper the level of bagginess I like. I don’t wear the jumpers that are the ‘right’ size, as this would be if I continued to knit. There was a time when I would have continued, hoping I would wear the jumper anyway once I finished it. But I am not going to do that. (If you find it hard to pull out a piece of knitting, leave it somewhere you can’t see it for six months – it is always much easier to pull out then – but I am going to be strong and pull this jumper out before the weekend is over!)

Some months ago I made myself a cup of chai tea, thinking how I looked forward to finishing that bag so that I could buy the brand I liked. Then I wondered why I was punishing myself. Sure, I had bought the packet of tea, but I wasn’t enjoying it, so why did I feel obliged to keep drinking it? It was not expensive, and even if it had been, did I really need to punish myself for having tried a blend from a different shop? I tossed out the packet of tea at that moment, and made myself a cup of Earl Grey instead.

Similarly, when I had my big wardrobe cull, I came across clothes I had barely worn. The jeans were the real lesson for me. There were several pairs of dark denim jeans, a few black, and lots of pale jeans with holes in the knees. At first I thought the lesson was that faded denim is weaker than darker denim, so a poor investment as they wear out so much more quickly. But then I saw the light! In the morning, when I get up, I feel like wearing faded denim jeans. It doesn’t matter how much better dark denim might look, I like looking at faded denim on my legs. And naturally, whatever is worn most frequently will wear out first. So now, I only ever buy faded denim jeans, usually two or three pairs at a time, and I tossed out all of the darker denim. The lesson has been learnt. I don’t need to force myself to wear the clothes I don’t like so much.

Finally, I need to buy a new mattress. This was the largest expense, by far. (I doubt I could ever admit to anyone how much that mattress cost.) But is another five years of insomnia really a good investment? I wondered what had happened to one of my crochet rugs. Ha! It is folded under the mattress protector, along with a large quilt and an eiderdown. Possibly the floor is more comfortable.

But oh, how I hate shopping!

And if you need a highly motivating guide to uncluttering, I can recommend ‘Throw Out Fifty Things’ by Gail Blanke. It was the best of the three books I borrowed recently on the subject. I have to do too much cleaning at the moment, and the load would be lighter if the clutter was reduced. Unfortunately, relatively little of the clutter is mine.

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model home

modelhome

I had been suffering a little too much from the ‘shoulds’ lately. It is a condition in which you are overly aware of all that the external world thinks you should or should not do. It extends to your house, your family, your occupation. I find schools are great breeding grounds for ‘shoulds’, and I cannot tell if I am alone in questioning them. A very sociable friend of mine alarmed me a couple of years ago when she told me that she does not interact with any of the other parents at school. Now I think I understand (I have not been overly sociable either, but I am an unsociable sort). I keep feeling as though I did not buy the instruction book that tells us how we should bring up our children, and I am not sure that I would follow the instructions if I did have such a book. There are people who seem to think there is only one right way, and that all the other ways are wrong. I enjoyed ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food’ simply because the generalizations demonstrated there were at least two right ways of bringing up children who will turn out okay.

Anyway, it was a relief for me to read ‘Model Home’, by Eric Puchner (2010). For me, it was about a family of people who were obeying the ‘shoulds’. The father had taken the risks in real estate, had the great idea and followed it, just as so many magazine articles and such recommend we do. He had given his family the life he thought they deserved by having them live in some luxury development that he could not afford at the time of the move. The mother was attractive in just the right way (I am grateful that was not overemphasised – there was a book I abandonned simply because I had had more than enough of every female character being so attractive that there could be no person inside them), and she had worthy employment making educational films. The eldest son is of friendly attractive appearance with the obligatory girlfriend whose limits he respects, but he is bothered by his appearance as he does not feel so friendly on the inside. The teenage daughter sounds fairly normal, but has been dropped into an environment of California beach types, so feels out of place. She fills a stereotype, as does the youngest son, who is meant to be just plain weird. However, although these people fulfil the shoulds of stereotypes and media messages, life does not go well for them. The book does not end in disaster, but it does not end well (let alone super-well, as happens in some best sellers). It is a bit like a Dorothy Whipple novel in that way. Life is always a little more uncomfortable at the end than at the beginning. I also liked the connectivity of events. With any negative incident, there was a web of incidents that led to it, and it was impossible to apportion blame, even on the father for his poor choice in investment, given the way such behaviour is encouraged.

I laughed when I read the questions for book club members at the end of the book. In one question, they asked: ‘Which character did you identify the most with, and why?’ I did not identify with any of them. Except to feel that sometimes life dumps things on us, and that small choices can have consequences out of proportion with the choices, and these people were as much victims of that as anyone else can be.

It was a good book for alleviating the pressure of those ‘shoulds’.

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Recent Activity

 

Time just disappears so quickly.

I began writing about a book I had read, but it connected too many books together and became a jumble, so instead, today, a much easier update on craft activities.

snakeofsquares

The crochet squares keep accumulating. I make four matching squares at a time, with the intention of deciding on a layout for one quarter of the blanket, then joining the squares of the other quarters to match. Some larger squares have worked their way into the collection already.

librarybag

The school library bag disappeared at school. I preferred to make a replacement. We have already learnt through experience that none of the bags supplied by the school or purchased through it are waterproof, depite being made from man-made fibres. I have sewn a cotton bag, simply because it is my preferred fibre, and the scrap of fabric was lying around here. Remnants are being used to make pencil cases and coin purses.

monsterpatches

My son is not growing as quickly as anticipated, and his trousers are not lasting as long as I would like. He requested the monster patches for these trousers, and is very happy with them. I expect he will fit his new trousers within a month – he appetite has increased this last week.

The elimination of gluten from my diet had me on the brink of depression as Easter approached. I hated it being triggered by something so trivial as the realisation that I won’t be eating hot cross buns ever again, not the very favourite ones I was buying for my son. The effect was compounded by a series of headaches that had me anticipating a migraine. The migraine did not eventuate, thank goodness, and just after the headaches disappeared I listened to a podcast describing cluster headaches, a phenomenon that is usually triggered by an equinox, more rarely by a solstice, and can be incredibly painful (BBC Radio 4, Inside Health, 26/3/14). The threat of migraine is the only thing that keeps me from indulging in gluten-rich products, and the thought of giving up gluten then suffering the weird headaches and having migraines again was unbearable. But all is well now.

appleandbananasalad

Now for a very simple lunchtime salad, for days when salads seem too dreary and bothersome:

 

  • diced apple
  • sliced banana
  • chopped lettuce (or baby leaves if they look okay – they have been looking horrible lately where I shop)
  • pepitas
  • sultanas
  • a little Camembert
  • a grind of black pepper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Australian pepitas are much more flavoursome than the Chinese ones, but the only place I have been able to purchase them is at the Vic market, at the nut stall closest to Thierry st.

 

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Big update on craft activities

greenjumper

I worked well on the green jumper. When I finished casting off the shoulders, I immediately worked the neckband. I sewed up one shoulder seam, began sewing the other, then realised I wanted to leave part of it open so that the neck opening would not pull off my son’s ears any time he took off the jumper. As I cast on the neckband, it occurred to me that I could extend the band across the open section of the shoulder. On a previous jumper I had worked this section separately, simply because the opening was not needed until the jumper had been worn for a year or more. This approach results in the band being buttoned differently, but it does not matter (to us). It was an efficient option.

The jumper then stalled. I had not planned the sleeves. As I flicked through my graph book of past projects and transcribed patterns, I discovered I had planned a jumper for this cotton yarn, but had forgotten before I began the knitting. It was a little irritating, but I can make that pattern from wool.

During the lull, I knitted a rabbit. The pattern comes from a magazine my mother buys for its patterns that require little yarn (stashbusters, except it comes with free yarn, so tends to add to her stash). My son immediately requested a brown rabbit, so I used brown mohair, a very nice but old ball, so a stashbuster for me, but not a yarn I can recommend simply because it was discontinued decades ago. It is a very soft rabbit.

aminekoandrabbitathealesville

I finished the jumper. I made a tiny turtle, from the ‘super-super cute crochet’ book by Brigitte Read (p38, and instead of working a mouth and lower jaw, I lazily added an extra two rounds to the head). I used a scrap of the yarn remaining from the jumper. The rest will go in the crochet blanket.

crochetturtle

I bought a wonderful book, mostly for my son to read, called: ‘Hello! My Name is Amineko’ by Nekoyama. Most of the book is devoted to photos with brief captions describing the activities of the crochet cats. As I suspected, my son loves it. Of course he wanted a cat of his own, if not a family of twelve, so I obliged – with one, and a second on the way. We purchased wool at a shop that had been recommended to me a couple of times, but I don’t think I will be returning. The wool is fine, but available elsewhere, at more convenient locations with much more pleasant staff.

rabbitandamineko

I love the pattern, the way it is written. I find it very easy to follow, and all parts are worked in tubes. The author recommends ending each round, but I use the amigurumi spiral method, as when I end rounds they do not look good. When changing colour, I make a slip stitch with the new colour being pulled through the old (except I forgot to do that in the hand on the left shown below, next to the hand in which I remembered to do that).

crochetcolourchange

I liked the detailed instructions given in the back, they are certainly worth reading before commencing the crochet, and I liked the description of how to mark rounds with a thread. Although it is something I have done before, I can’t remember having seen the method in a book. I did not bother to mark rounds on the limbs and tail – they are so narrow that it would not matter if an extra half round was worked, it would not be noticed on the finished cat. The black cat was made with Millamia 4 ply (Swedish brand, Italian wool) on a 2.50 mm hook, and ended up being 21 cm (8.25 in) long. It took about 35 g/ 88 m of yarn. (I mention this because with such vague hook and yarn specifications in the book, quantities are not given, and I suspect I may have to compensate with a few stripes in one or two cats.) I am now working on a cat in some blue Rowan fine tweed on an old American crochet hook, size 1. The cat is going to be slightly smaller than the black cat.

aminekobits

We have spent a bit of time in the car lately, a trip to Bendigo, and a trip to Healesville Sanctuary. I have given up trying to knit in the car, the shape of the seat encourages rounded shoulders and it is just too uncomfortable. However, I find that I can crochet granny squares comfortably. And so much for just following a single square pattern. I am now making three different types of squares, and intend to make some larger squares too.

cottongrannies
And I did not need to worry about the lycopene enhanced tomatoes. The visitor ate the one in the rosemary bush too. I enjoyed pulling out the plants as the leaves were beginning to die, and I don’t like looking at dead tomato plants.

 

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tomato plant 2014

redtomatochewedWe used to try to grow tomatoes. The cherry tomato plants were bought as seedlings. A couple of years later I tried planting seeds for a slightly larger tomato variety (seeds from supermarket tomatoes). The plants grew, but then the insects would come to eat them, or there would be a heat wave and the plants would shrivel up too quickly. We were given a larger variety of lycopene-enriched tomato, which to me seemed a bit low on flavour, and surely the whole point of trying to grow food was to grow something at least as flavourful as that available at the market or my favourite greengrocer’s.

tomatoeswithdeadleavesA few years ago I refused to allow any more tomato plants to enter the yard. I was tired of the fussing over them, tired of being accused of taking inadequate care of them (a small boy and a few birds were more than enough for me to care for – and if anyone is interested, I think finches like to be neglected, as ours seemed to live a very long time, and the remaining finch is now 7.5 years old), and I did not like the appearance of the plant when the tomatoes appear (the dying leaves).

chewedgreentomatoLast spring I repotted a few plants, then planted a few seeds for carrots, beetroot, beans, basil and nasturtiums. At first the seeds were segregated, given their own pots, or sharing with just one other seed variety. But then they took too long to come up, so I scattered a few varieties of seed in each pot. I discovered preferred locations in my yard for some plants, and I had a tomato plant come up. The tomatoes are large, so I suspect they are that lycopene-enriched variety. I was surprised: the weather did not kill them and bugs did not eat them. The tomatoes grew larger, and the first began to ripen. I almost began to feel excited at the prospect of a home-grown tomato, even if it was likely to be lacking in flavour. It would have been an achievement. But then, of course something ate it. I suspect the something was a possum or a fruit bat – substantial portions of the tomato would disappear during the night. And now it is eating the green tomatoes. There are not many on the plant, and it is just the one plant, so they won’t last long and I don’t need to worry about whether tomatoes will ripen – they will be eaten before then.

tomatoinrosemaryUnless this one is not noticed amongst the branches of the rosemary bush.

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Thursday’s mail

thursdaysparcel

This wonderful parcel arrived Thursday.

camilleribooks

Two weeks ago I borrowed ‘The Scent of the Night’. I had been meaning to try an Andrea Camilleri novel for at least three years. I feel embarassed that I first noticed them in a remainder book shop. Why were they not more obvious in the regular bookshops?*

It was one of those books that seems to take only five minutes to read. I loved it! I loved the attitudes of the characters, the personal connections that enabled the inspector to circumnavigate the bureaucratic delays apparently prevalent in Italy. I loved his impulsive (but childish) response to the loss of something he had loved. (All crime investigators should be flawed.) I enjoyed his contempt for a guest’s preferred coffee preparation. (My brother and I have our own intense, separate, memories of a single wasted cup of coffee, ruined by a teaspoon of sugar – I think we consumed our lifetime sugar quota as children and now find sweet sugar-rich foods unpalatable.) I also appreciate the work of Stephen Sartarelli, who kept the Italian flavour in the English translation. I probably shouldn’t comment on authenticity, but the characters, the attitudes and the dialogue reminded me of exchanges with my friends of various European backgrounds. I felt sad when I finished reading ‘The Scent of the Night’ because I wanted to read more, immediately.

I first looked at the Fantastic Fiction website (www.fantasticfiction.co.uk), to find the title of the first book in the series (this is an excellent website for finding series titles, order of publication, forthcoming books and alternative titles as they sometimes differ between countries).

After that I checked the library website. I was not surprised to find the first volume available in large print only, and two other volumes not held by the library at all, and that a lot of ordering of volumes from the three inconvenient branches would be required.

So I went to Bookfinder (www.bookfinder.com), another favourite, and discovered the bargain shown above. I almost fainted at the price, and found it irresistible (obviously).

While I waited for my parcel, I selected a nice pile of easy to cull books from my shelves, and found one worth keeping, one of uncertain fate, and the rest went to the Op Shop on Friday. Yippee! I have space!

But no reading of these until the school holidays are over…

*I may not have noticed these books in bookshops simply because I almost stopped reading crime novels. I was tired of so many corpses, so much description of them and the suffering before they reached that state. So I was not looking in the crime section of bookshops.

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