29 June 2007

News Flash - Lulu caught!

Dotter and I went in to Craft ACT this morning, to deliver our knitted goodies to Barbara, for the Knit 1 Blog 1 exhibition. Dotter is exhibiting her Pencil Case Hat, and I'm putting in my Alene Camisole and Branching Out Scarf.

Suddenly we noticed a small white thing scurrying around the edge of the Gallery.... yes, it was Lulu! Dotter grabbed her quick smart - and I think Lulu was a bit relieved to be back with us, even though we were very cross!

After we told Barb all about Lulu's nefarious exploits of the past week, she joined us in pointing the finger at this naughty lamb!

As Executive Director of Craft ACT, we felt it was fiitting for Barb to pass sentence on Lulu, as an impartial judge. (She doesn't normally look this threatening - she's very lovely, unless you're a naughty lamb). Lulu tried to ignore her, but there was no escaping this - 6 weeks of community service, to be served in the exhibition, locked up in a Perspex case.

Hopefully she won't get into any trouble there, and she'll have plenty of time to think on the error of her ways. Do you think this experience will change her? Hmmm, somehow I doubt it...

The show opens on Friday 13th at 6.15pm, Craft ACT (Level 1 North Building, 180 London Cct , just above the Canberra Museum and Gallery in Civic). Love to see you there! You can point and laugh at Lulu...

And the Bam! Socks! are finished (my kids' new name for the Clafoutis socks)!

28 June 2007

Bam! Sock!

Sock #1. Finished 10.30pm last night. Total knitting time, about 3 hours (while watching TV). Hasn't been off the son's foot since.

Sock #2. Cast on this morning, knitting a row now and then when I need a break from work...

27 June 2007

Instant Clafoutis

My son has been promised a pair of Opal socks - the 6ply is sitting in my stash waiting patiently (for now...) - but he really needs something NOW. I decided on the Clafoutis Socks pattern on Yarn's web site... I'm using the natural coloured yarn that my mum gave me (which I'm using for her vest) .

I've done a few gauge swatches, decided on 6mm needles, cast on at 7pm (only 24 stitches, bliss), and am down the rib (I made it shorter), through the heel and gusset, and into the foot already! Really fast knitting gratification. I'm going to see if I can finish the first one tonight - one sock in one night!

Luckily my son's feet are slender and not too long, so hopefully this last bit won't take ages. He's about a men's size 8 or 9. I'm using the magic loop method again, which is going really well on my Knit Picks needles, as the cable is wonderfully flexible. It also means he can try them on as we go, even though they're top down socks.

And has everyone got their new Yarn magazine?! It's looking good!

Lulu News : I've had a report from the Sheep Police, they say that Lulu has been spotted out near the Yarralumla Woolshed - lucky there aren't any sheep out there any more, otherwise she could have disappeared in the mob. Hopefully her capture is not long off. SUCH a relief that K found her jewels, though.

26 June 2007

Revelation and Anticipation

Stitch'n Bitch was wonderful as ever tonight - new faces, old friends, dinner (always slightly pot luck at the Club, but filling), raunchy stories, knitting to fondle, even some captivated passers-by ... unfortunately Dotter was feeling under the weather, and had to be taken home early. But we had a lovely time - and Lulu was spotted!

K was right - Lulu has rid herself of the jewels, and must have them hidden in a secret location! She was seen plotting with young Trudy Bunny, in the Southern Cross Club in Woden - but disappeared soon after, goodness only knows where. The Sheep Police have been notified. I only hope we can both catch Lulu and get the jewels back... and that Trudy Bunny is not being led astray!

In painty news, this is my latest offering, titled 'Anticipation' - you all know what I'm talking about! Gorgeous laceweight (this is my possum-merino from Fibreworks, bought at the WoolFest), a pattern magazine (Interweave Knits), lots of dreams... I will be scanning this painting and putting it on my Knitting Art shop this week (cards, posters etc).

Sheep Police

Thanks everyone for keeping a look out for Lulu the Jewel Thief.... K has sighted her twice now, lurking in the dark near her house, but this morning saw her heading towards Civic, in the rain. I called the Sheep Police just now, and they said "Woof bark yip yip yip grrrrrrrrr." So helpful!

Hopefully this morning's sighting will help them bring this naughty, damp, lamb to justice, and get K all her jewels back!

On the knitting front, progress has been made on my mum's vest, and Mariah's fronts are over half-way done (ie halfway to the armhole level). This is a bit blurry, but you get the idea. The fabric is really curly, but they are exactly the same height, although it mightn't look like it.

PS - I mark the lower side-seam edges of each piece with stitch markers (red & green), that helps me keep track of which part of the 'double' row I'm up to. It's working so far, anyway!

24 June 2007

Lulu on the run!

I'm afraid that I have some shocking new - Dotter, Bells, new friend Kat and I were having a lovely morning tea at friend K's house, happily knitting away, sipping rose tea, and enjoying snickerdoodles, bleu cheese pastries, a ricotta cheesecake, being ladies. BB was there, and Lulu was happy to see him, there were kisses... we thought all was well... but then Lulu disappeared. Things were quiet - too quiet...

Bells and I went looking for Lulu, only to discover her helping herself to the contents of K's jewellery box! When she saw us approaching she bolted for the front door...

Bells managed to grab hold of her briefly, and I thought that would be an end to this unfortunate incident...

...but then she wriggled out of Bells' grasp, and saw her chance to escape!

I got one last glimpse of her in the bushes, before she disappeared. WITH all of K's precious jewellery!

So please keep a look out for this very naughty lamb - she's on the run, with bling, and I have no idea where she's going to end up! Now I have to inform the sheep police ...

22 June 2007

Reading, Knitting, Yelling

Oooh look, new knitting things! The New Knits on the Block was only $10 at my local shopping centre - I have nieces and nephews who fall into the age groups covered in the book. I'm quite partial to the felted unicorn headdress (with ears and horn), as one niece is unicorn crazy... And of course I always love my Interweave Knits - my favourite knitting magazine! I'm looking forward to settling down with a nice cup of tea to read through it on Saturday morning.

In a show of great filial duty, I've decided to make a vest for my mum, using that wool she gave me recently (the stuff I had to wash cos it was shtinky). I gave her a few options, and she chose this Fjord Medallion Rib Vest pattern from Crystal Palace Yarns.

I did a swatch of the medallion pattern, and thought, yeah, I can handle this, but by the time I was 8 rows into the back, and was already off kilter with the pattern... bugger it - I ripped it out, and delved into my Vogue Stitch Dictionary, and chose the Waffle Rib.

I quite like the look of the 'wrong side' pattern, too, actually...

So I started the back, and then realised that with the waffle rib I could very easily knit the whole thing in the round - no seams! So then I started the front, and when I got it to the same number of rows, I joined them together... making nice little slits at the sides (yeah, I meant that...).

Mum wants it to be pretty long (44 cm), so vents at the side are probably a good idea anyway. She does a lot of gardening and working outside, and wants something to keep her hips warm as well. And yes, she is very excited about it ;)

Dotter and I are getting ready to enter some pieces in the Knit 1 Blog 1 Exhibition, being run by Craft ACT! I've got a couple of items in mind, probably my Branching Out scarf and Alene Camisole, seeing as both were knitted using online patterns. Dotter will have a new Pencil Case Hat on display too! We're delivering our goodies next week! And our Blogs will be on display during the show as well - w00t! If you're in the area, do try to come along (I'll post dates and times and places closer to the time).

And finally - I got a terrible shock this morning (Saturday 23rd - I started this post last night, hence Friday's date)... I came out to find Lulu doing this to my brand new Interweave Knits magazine!! Aaaargh! I don't know what to do with her, I think she's getting naughtier as the weeks go on. I think some serious consequences are going to have to be imposed on her, before her behaviour gets totally out of control! Yelling doesn't seem to affect her at all, although it relieves some of my stress!

21 June 2007

Refried Bean Enchiladas

For a change from knitting, I'm going to share a recipe of mine - this is my family's favourite meal. It's a recipe I've adapted and changed over the years, and I hope you like it too!

Jejune's Refried Bean Enchiladas

Serves 4 or 5

Ingredients :

little bit of olive oil
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tin tomato puree
~ 1 tpsn ground cumin
~ 1 tspn marjoram
chilli powder to taste

1 packet lavash bread or flour tortillas (10-12)
1 tin refried beans
1-2 cups grated tasty cheese

Optional : diced onion, Jalapeño chillis

To serve : sour cream, green salad, salsa, rice

First of all make the sauce.

1. In a large frypan heat the oil, and lightly sauté the garlic. Add the cumin, and fry for another 30 seconds or so.

2. Add the tomato puree, marjoram, and chilli powder (to taste). You can add a bit of water if the sauce looks too thick. Simmer for a few minutes. Turn off the heat.

Next make the enchiladas. This bit is a bit messy, so go with the flow, and keep a tea towel handy :)

1. Get a baking dish, and lightly oil it. Rectangular is best. Preheat the oven to about 180ºC (375ºF).

2. Get one tortilla or piece of lavash bread, and dip it in to the hot sauce. It doesn't have to be completely submerged, just a coating on at least one side.

3. Place the tortilla in the baking dish, then put in the filling down the middle section - a few Tablespoons of refried beans and a sprinkling of cheese are the basics. You can add extra things like diced onion or Jalapeño chillis if you like. A small spatula is handy for spreading the beans.

4. Roll up the tortilla, and push to one end of the baking dish.

5. Repeat until the baking dish is full! Spread any left-over sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.

6. Cover the baking dish with foil, and put in the oven. Bake covered for about 40 minutes until the enchiladas are bubbling and look yummy! If you want the top a bit more crispy you can take the foil off for 10 minutes before taking out of the oven.

These are really good served with steamed rice (traditional Mexican accompaniment), a green salad and sour cream (low-fat is fine). Taco sauce / salsa and guacamole are all good additions too!

A classic Mexican salad, which I love with these enchiladas, is layers of thinly-sliced red onion, avocado and navel oranges on a bed of lettuce, with a French dressing with tarragon added.

Variation : If you want a quicker version, just make layers of tortillas, refried beans and cheese, and don't worry about the whole rolling things up deal. This is the version photographed here, I've just realised :)

This is all that's left in our place after about 30 minutes.... and that piece only lasted another few minutes!
These are great the next day (if any are left), just reheat in the microwave.

18 June 2007

Second Sock Syndrome

I am brain dead today from setting up a PayPal Sandbox account (ie a place within PayPal where developers can test shopping carts, various settings, currencies, and security certificates without actually making real payments), and setting up my X-Cart online shopping cart for real, and dealing with all sorts of technical "issues"... I did process the first dummy order from my shop (made appropriately enough by one Lulu Lamb), and it all worked (after 6 hours of work) so that's something. Still, I don't feel I've achieved anything tangible, so some knitting was definitely called for.

And I've done it - I cast on, and am now past the toe of the second Opal sock... phew! As George said, my future contains a LOT of sock yarn, so I'd better get cracking! I'm trying this one on two circular needles - I think I need slightly longer needles though, these ones are a bit pokey all over the place... and - yes - sigh - Lulu thinks it's a beanie for her. The needles only seem to add to the attraction. Kinky lamb...

Thank you all for your kind words about my Fig painting. I'm pretty hard on my own work. To answer your question Bells, the grey section on the left is supposed to be two mugs stacked up, but that doesn't come through at all (and there's a water bloom that isn't supposed to be there). The mixing bowls need a bit more shaping and shading, I think. And the green napkin is a bit too amorphous. But with watercolour there are limited opportunities to fix things! It's all good practice though - the only way to get better is to keep painting, and enjoying the process.

Nearly forgot - I was talking to my mum last night, and found out that the fiendish Jamaican hot chillis cam from a wee little innocent looking chilli seedling given to her by a friend, and which has grown into a massive chilli-bearing monster shrub. She wasn't aware that they were evil hot chillis. She is very sensitive to all chillis, so has to wear 2 pairs of gloves even to handle mild ones. Yeah. So she grows them. Go figure!

17 June 2007

Winter SnB

It's been too long since I actually got to a Stitch'n Bitch! Dotter and I headed on over to Civic, and Lulu tagged along too. Taph very kindly lent me the Yarn Harlot's latest book, so guess what I'm reading this week? All other books have been forgotten... We also got to catch up with Caffeine Faerie, Karen, Rachel, Sarah, Camille, George (back from Germany!), and some new faces too.

Lulu - of course - got into mischief... First she stole some of Dotter's Chai Latte.

And her glasses...

When Bells arrived, Lulu caught up with her dearly beloved BB.... there were many sheepy kisses! This didn't stop her flirting with Bell's Sean, though - shameless hussy lamb that she is!

And look what Bells bought for me at the Sydney Good Food & Wine Show - Mexican Achiote spice, which I couldn't find anywhere in Canberra.... So kind and thoughtful!!

Sarah brought along Naughty Needles to show off - Lulu was picking up all sorts of hints and getting all sorts of ideas!

She had a go at stealing Bells' wonderful red scarf, but we managed to get it off her without resorting to fisticuffs.

She read all about knitting socks on 2 circular needles, in Cat Bordhi's book (also Sarah's).

MonnSqueak made these totally amazing wine glass charms, which suited Lulu as earrings. Isn't this one COOL?

And my non-knitting work from this weekend - another foray into watercolours. I used a photo for reference (rather than painting from life). It's not too bad; I'm not totally happy with it, I think the bowls need more definition, but it's worth keeping. Quite pleased with the figs.

Figs - watercolour
35 x 24 cm

16 June 2007

Hot ants!

This afternoon I got my trusty Crock Pot out of the cupboard, ready for a nice winter beef stew. Turned it on to heat up, and - whammy - ants everywhere! There was a WHOLE COLONY of ants living in my Crock Pot!! We had to put it outside!

Hubby cleaned it out, and checked the electronics for me... and it's happily cooking our dinner now (sans fourmis). The ants are finding a new place to live in the garden. Where they should have been in the first place!!

15 June 2007

It's a sock!

I'm actually wearing it now ... my first Opal, first toe-up, and first magic loop sock! The twisting lines of rib are from the RPM sock on Knitty - I only added them for the leg part. My first cast-off was too tight, so I unpicked it and did it again, this time using doubled needles to get more stretch into the top of the sock.

Now I just need to make another one! Think I've got bugger all chance of matching the stripes... hmmm.

June 16 : I'm adding some comments about what I thought of all the new things I tried with this sock :

1) Opal Sock Yarn. Lovely! A bit less soft than Patonyle, but it should wear well. Very comfy to wear. It's just as well, I might have bought a bit more via George in Germany!

2) Toe-up socks. These were a generic 'toe-up' recipe from Wendy Knits, with a short row toe and heel. I don't know, they were really pretty easy to knit, but just didn't have the same 'oooh clever' factor for me. I put them aside for more than a month. I like the padded heel flaps of a top down sock. I like doing all the tricky things at the heel. I like the stages you go through. And all those things aren't in this particular toe-up sock pattern, anyway (I'm aware that there are toe-up socks with heel flaps, which I'd be interested in trying). So while these socks certainly fit well, and are comfortable, and it is fun being able to try them on as you knit, I think on balance I'm a top down girl. I must admit I'm not feeling like knitting the second one, but I will cast it on today and make a start. Honest!

3) Magic Loop technique. I love it! I'm happy with DPNs too, but my sock DPNs are long Ivoré needles, and they're really a bit too long (and I'm not quite brave enough to cut them down...yet). I like the way you don't have to shift between needles so often, and stitches aren't so prone to falling off the needles. My 2.25mm circular needle has needles that are a bit too long, and the cable isn't really soft enough to lie flat when it's looped around, so there could be a better 2.25mm circ out there, but I think it's worth looking.

And a progress report on Mariah : the back is done to the armhole level, and is waiting on a shoelace...

I'm knitting both front pieces at once (one long circular needle, 2 balls of wool), so they'll be the same length exactly. I'm about 4 rows in. I really want to be able to wear Mariah this winter, so I'm going to put a bit more effort in...

And thanks for all the kind offers of Sydney knit-ins and company - you guys are just so lovely!

14 June 2007

Utter madness

We're never doing this again - up to Sydney and back again - after a concert - in the same day. OK, it wasn't strictly the same day, cos we got home at 3am on Monday.

The kids had tickets to the Come Together concert at Luna Park (which is right on Sydney Harbour, in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge). Son went up a few days earlier by train, to stay with his girlfriend (I shall draw a kindly veil here). But Dotter is too young to travel alone, and so we agreed to drive her up and back in the one day.

We left around 10.30am, and stopped at Berrima, where Dotter got some alpaca and silk, and I showed my Branching Out scarf to the ladies at the alpaca shop - I'd made it with alpaca / silk from them. They loved it :)

I get car sickness if I look down while in the car, but this trip I did manage to get quite a lot of Mariah's back knitted, as it's stocking stitch, and I could just glance down quickly now and then to check my needles were doing the right thing - no dropped or split stitches (that I've noticed anyway)!

We deposited Dotter at Luna Park at 3.30pm, after finding Son and GF (who is very nice, BTW, and was shy about meeting us). Here's Dotter ready to rock out...

Hubby and I then got back over the Harbour Bridge again, and parked at the Opera House. Very exciting - our first show at the House (I've walked around the place, but not been inside). We went to the 5pm show of Scottish stand-up comedian, Danny Bhoy. He was SO funny, just wonderful! We had great seats (Row G), and thoroughly enjoyed the show. His show is being recorded for DVD this week, so you will be able to enjoy his wicked Scottish madness soon too!

We then had a leisurely dinner at one of the cafés alongside the Harbour, and with a good 2 or 3 hours still to fill, decided to drive back to Luna Park, and just wait in the car... Hubby really needed to sleep, as he'd done all the driving, and was pretty wiped out. We parked next to Bradford Park and the swimming pool, right at the foot of the piers for the Harbour Bridge. Pretty spectacular scenery!

Luckily the kids were ready by 10pm (an hour earlier than we were expecting). Dotter was traumatised, as the mosh pit for Karnivool had been really rough and violent - lots of pushing and kicking, and she had a panic attack, and had real trouble getting outside. Luckily she 'only' got bruised feet and shins, and nothing more serious. She went back in for the Cog and Shihad sets (the bands my kids had come to see), as their mosh pits are much more dancey and fun and safe. She has a new appreciation for how people can be crushed in crowds, and that not all mosh pits are alike! Scary.

We drove Son & GF back to their hotel in town, and headed home with Dotter (Son got home on Tuesday). Hubby did all the driving again, and took a rest break every hour. Not much traffic on the road to Canberra at 2am, just in case you're wondering. We stopped for coffee at the rest house near Goulburn - and came across the Big Merino, sitting in his new home, waiting to be properly installed! I bet he's happy to have some new scenery to look out over after all these years...

Hubby and I have made a pact - we'll NEVER do that again. Next time we have to go up for a late night event, in Sydney we're staying overnight!

Thanks everyone for your kind comments about my hands - I actually bought that nail polish because it matched the wristwarmers (and I like dark purple)... And I *have* used the harissa, I put about 1/4 tspn in some Moroccan mince last night, and it wasn't enough to make the dish too hot. But I'm going to ignore George and not taste it 'neat'. That way leads madness! And pain!

12 June 2007

Warm wrists

Today I finished the wristwarmers for Catherine. They're so soft and cosy, I was reluctant to take them off and put them in the post!

I love thumb gussets! This the first time I've done a thumb like this (you basically knit a triangle into the side of the tube), and it worked so well. Dotter was very cool and unimpressed - "Oh, haven't you done one of those before? says she all smug-like. Cheeky kitten!

Pattern : Little Twist Wristwarmers

Yarn : Big W's Sean Sheep Arymtage 100% wool - it's practically a thick single - unspun and soft. Around '12 ply' in thickness and gauge. It's lovely to knit with, but I suspect it will pill fairly badly - after wearing one of the wristwarmers for just a little while to check length etc, it was getting 'fluffy'.

Modifications : I only did the cables for 4 repeats, as they weren't that obvious in this thick yarn. I made the warmers longer before starting the thumb gusset.

Tricks : To fix the loose hole that forms when you cast off the thumb edge, and rejoin to knitting in the double rib, I cast off 12 (instead of 13) and knit that extra stitch in in the next row (ie k2tog with the last stitch on the right side of the gusset and the first stitch on the left side of the gusset, linking the two sides together more firmly) which worked a treat.

Thanks for all the harissa comments! I put the mixture through the blender yesterday, so it's much smoother now. I'm still too scared to taste it, though!

Trip to Sydney was exhausting but good - will post about it soon, with pics.

09 June 2007

Harissa tale

So. I made the harissa (which is a hot Tunisian chilli sauce, and is the traditional accompaniment for couscous). It took me about an hour. I used the recipe in Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion.

First I chopped up and de-seeded 250g of chillis. From looking more closely at the chillis, I think they're Jamaican hots rather than Scotch bonnets (they have a flattened ring around the middle) - but they're both bloody hot, near the top of the scale! Even picking up an uncut chilli was enough to make my fingers burn.

The question that has to be asked is - why on earth is my mother growing buckets of these things?!!

Now all the other ingredients have been added - a head of garlic, fresh coriander, mint, ground coriander seed, crushed caraway seeds, and salt. They're probably all wasted, cos I can't imagine that anyone will be able to taste them, ever.

Then I added olive oil, and beat the crap out of it in the food processor until it 'turned into a paste'. Even after about 5 minutes of blending there were still chunks of chilli... I think I put in too much oil, so it's a bit runny (as the man in cheese shop said ;). It's also too lumpy. I think I need to put it through the blender.

Anyway. This is how it looks now. Filled a jar nicely. I'm too scared to taste it!

I wish I'd read Kate's comment first, as I think we'd have got more use from the Jamaican sauce she found. I don't know if we'll ever actually use the harissa... but it was an experience making it!

As for the wristwarmers, the second one is nearly done. I started a new ball of Arymtage for the second one, and luckily it was pretty close to the same colour pattern as the first - only a difference of a few rows in the shading. Photos soon!

08 June 2007

Chilli snail wristwarmers

CHILLI : What shall I do with a colander full of these cute chillies, from my mum's garden? Anyone have a good harissa recipe? And does anyone know what sort of chilli these are? They look a bit like button squash in shape and size.

SNAIL : I love my snail candle holder! I bought this little guy at the Woolfest - yeah, I know it's not made of yarn, and has nothing to do with knitting, but it's CUTE. What further excuse do I need?! It's made by Thomas Westra, and was $15. I fell in love with his lizards, but they were out of my price range.

WRISTWARMERS : And at last, the knitting content... these are a variation on the Slumberland Little Twist Wristwarmers. I'm doing fewer cables, and am using a thicker wool (Sean Sheep armytage from my stash, which is actually quite nice, despite being cheap). This is also my first time using the magic loop technique, and I'm quite enjoying it - less pointy than using DPNs.

It's nice to have a fast knit - I started them yesterday, and I'm doing the thumb gusset now. They're for a PhD student in my dad's department at Uni, who has RSI.