Summer knits for an Australian summer.

Inspired by Craig Reucassel’s  TV documentary series, ‘War on Waste‘, I decided to set myself a personal challenge: to make something for myself to wear this summer. Instead of buying a few new t’shirts or tops for summer, I would try and knit a couple. This could be my small contribution towards stemming the tide of super cheap fast fashion that is so easy to become addicted to, but is so bad for the environment. After all, when you craft something, watch it grow and evolve over a period of time, you have a vested  interest in it. You are less likely to consign it to a Vinnies bag after donning it a couple of times!

But even though I was full of  good greeny intentions,   I had a few inner misgivings as knitting something for summer would be a first for me.  I wondered if this project, which I could visualise so tantalisingly in my mind,  would feel good on.  Would it be too hot or  scratchy or itchy against the skin? And perhaps most importantly of all, would it fit well or would I be wasting my time knitting up a shapeless garment that even a charity shop would reject?

But I would never know if I didn’t try.

Perusing my favourite knitting website, Loveknitting,  I was surprised by the range of summer yarns and patterns that are available.  After much deliberation I chose cotton blend yarns in DK or 8ply  and found two patterns that I thought were simple enough for my first efforts. (I know my limitations – my fingers definitely do not move at the speed of light and I did want to finish this project before Christmas!)

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This pattern is by an independent designer, Laurimuks patterns  and is called  ‘Pebble summer top‘  One of the things I like about independent designers is that their directions are always very clear, detailed and easy to follow.   The designer knitted this in King Cole Smooth DK but I wanted a natural fibre, not a microfibre yarn, so I substituted with another King Cole yarn with the same tension .

I thought it might look good  in white so chose a cotton silk blend by King Cole,  called Finesse.

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This is beautifully soft to the touch and has a beautiful sheen and texture.

And my second choice  was  Sirdar pattern 7280. 

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This pattern has a sleeveless version but I thought I would knit the version with sleeves. Unfortunately, the colour I wanted in Beachcomber wasn’t available so I substituted another Sirdar yarn called  Amalfi with similar tension.
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This is a cotton viscose blend. I love the flecks of colour in the yarn. It too has a lovely feel.

I knitted up the Amalfi yarn first. I  think Sirdar have been very clever with the marketing of this yarn because as I knitted away, memories of our stay on the beautiful Amalfi coast hovered over my needles. While I found I had to pay attention to the pattern for the first couple of pattern repeats, it was very easy to follow and much to my surprise, I was soon finished. I am very happy with the result.

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The central rib pattern gives the top elasticity while the lacy pattern really helps with air flow. It feels lovely on the skin and I particularly like how the orange highlight does not dominate but just adds to the unique texture.  Special thanks to Liss for modeling the top for me. (Postscript: This yarn keeps its shape very well when washed. While it’s not a top for a heatwave, it is lovely to wear when the temperature is in the mid 20s. The pattern is very true to size and there is more than enough ease. Next time I will consider more closely whether I would like the finished top to be snug or loose fitting and if snug is my decision, I would go down a size.)

Could my second top be as good? I cast on my stitches and was soon making progress.

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This yarn felt absolutely amazing as I knitted it up. So incredibly soft! And it has this lovely sheen and texture!  But I wondered about the bottom edge which was knitted without a basque. Would the finished top be too loose?

The pattern was really easy and soon I had finished.

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While the top is the same front and back, the broken rib pattern allows the top to mold to the body when worn, giving an attractive silhouette.  It is very cool and comfortable to wear. And suprisingly, the bottom edge does not ride up! There is something special about cotton/silk blends – an affordable touch of luxury.  (Postscript: I have since washed this top a couple of times. While the top still feels and looks amazing, there has been a little bit of give in the garter stitch bottom edge which annoys me a little even though others haven’t  noticed.  I think that I would incorporate knitting elastic into the garter stitch edge next time if knitting in this beautiful yarn, Also the pattern has more than enough ease. I would be tempted to go down a size as well.  Having said that, I love, love wearing this top. It’s worked out so much better than I could have hoped and plan to knit a jumper for winter out of this yarn.)

My tops have brightened up my summer wardrobe. They were very cost effective. Yarn and patterns set me back about $50 Australian. So not much more than cheap fashion!  I really like them and will be careful to follow the washing instructions given for the yarns,  hopefully ensuring several years of wear.

And while it shouldn’t matter what others think, it does give you a lovely feeling when  a stranger stops you  and asks,  “Where did you  get your top?”

Go handmade!

A Tale of Two Cowls and a little Jumper

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Two years ago, our family and friends were celebrating Lyndsay and Reece’s wedding at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. Although it didn’t snow, it was cold. So cold that everyone was rugged up in beautiful coats and jackets, hats and  beanies and interesting scarves that flowed this way and that,  while we enjoyed exhilarating walks that ensured that blood still flowed to our extremities.

Coming from Byron, my cold weather garb was particularly uninspiring: of course I had purchased a lovely outfit for the wedding itself, after all I was the mother of the bride! But everything else I had was comprised of items designed to brave the New Zealand wilderness on walking treks. Practical, yes! Stylish, well only if you’e modelling the yeti look!   I cast an admiring eye over the stylish casual attire and accessories everyone else was wearing.  Before this, I hadn’t really noticed that infinity scarves or cowls had become a fashion accessory. My sisters, Jenny  and Maryanne looked particularly good in theirs so I resolved on my return home to give knitting one a go.

It’s only taken two years to follow through and I can’t even use the excuse that I didn’t have the materials on hand. Nestled in my stash were two skeins of very special,  hand dyed, hand spun wool that Lyndsay had brought back from her travels in Montana a few years ago and I had found a free pattern on Ravelry that would be perfect for the job.  Still better late than never as they say.

 I  knitted the cowl on a circular needle.

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I decided against knitting in rounds and joined my cowl using mattress stitch. Even though the wool was very chunky, the join is virtually undetectable and you don’t have to worry about twisting stitches or moving stitch markers.

What was interesting about this pattern was the edging: it formed a very natural roll on the finished cowl while the lacy middle section made for an interesting textual contrast.

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The finished cowl can wrap around two or three times depending on the look you are after.

The pattern does suggest you use a stretchy bind off. I had never used one before, so I consulted You tube to find out how to do it.  As you can see from the photo above, it gives your cowl an elliptical shape ensuring that it sits better when you wrap it around your head.

I was so pleased with the finished scarf, that I decided to knit one as part of a birthday gift for my sister Jenny. I knew that she already had a couple of chunky cowls in her wardrobe so decided to try something different. I settled on 2ply Silk Mohair.  I  wanted something unique, so I sourced the yarn from Lara Downs, an independent Australian Merino Wool and Fine Mohair grower in Victoria. Pam has a wonderful Etsy shop and luckily for me, she had just enough left of a beautiful  rosy pink silk mohair yarn for me to purchase. Very quickly this beautiful yarn arrived. It was super soft and had a beautiful sheen but was so, so fine.  For the first time, I felt just a little daunted. I had never tried to knit cobwebs before!

 Luckily, you knit this yarn on quite big needles. I used  5mm straight needles. You have to be careful because it is very apparent as you knit, that if you were to drop a stitch, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to retrieve it! Even unraveling  the knitting would be well nigh impossible.

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I used the same pattern as I used for my Montana cowl but added a few rows of garter stitch between the lace sections to give the cowl more stability.  You can’t really see from the photo, but the silk gives the yarn a beautiful, subtle sheen and of course it is very, very soft.
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Of course the cowl isn’t as long as the Montana cowl as the yarn is so fine but it wraps around twice easily.

If I was to knit another in such a fine yarn, I think I would purchase  Addi specialist lace needles which have a very sharp point to make the job a little easier.

Of course I am still knitting little bits of this and that for the grandchildren. I finished a little vest for Lyndsay and Reece’s new baby which is due to arrive at any moment.

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This will be a Darwin baby, so I knitted this in  scraps of King Cole 4ply Bamboo cotton. This is a really lovely yarn and knits up to any 4ply wool pattern.  I have knitted a lot for the other grandchildren and wanted this baby to have a little something from his or her Nanna.

Most projects are still on ongoing but I have finished a  jumper for Huddy in the same yarn. Bamboo Cotton is designed for the European summer but is perfect for winter in the Bay.

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I was using up yarn in my stash and only had white and blue left. Didn’t realise I was knitting  a Geelong jumper for an Adelaide supporter!  This is also my first ever V neck jumper and was really pleased with how it turned out. The instructions in my Patons Baby knitting book were really easy to follow.

The jumper fits Huddy with plenty of room and I think suits his colouring much better than brown and yellow don’t you think?

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I feel good … swinging high, sliding down the slippery dip, crawling through a tunnel, eating my cupcake or scrutinising the skateboarders, I’m dressed for success!

Having actually knitted something for myself that worked, I’m thinking about knitting a top or cardigan for summer. Loveknitting has a great sale on for July and I’ve started collecting ideas. There are so many fabulous yarn with interesting combinations of natural fibres such as linen, cotton or silk to choose from.  And I have found some easy patterns as well.  If I actually follow through, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

A friend sent me an affirmation the other day and I thought I’d share it with you. ” Love, creativity and dedication. That’s what goes into handmade!”  The human touch means so much don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japanese Snow Magic

Sometimes the best holidays are those that happen unexpectedly. Kenn and I had no plans to visit Japan until Melissa and Ben asked us to join them on a family skiing  holiday to Nosawa Onsen, a delightful mountain village a couple of hundred kilometres north of Tokyo.

While I love being in the snow, I wouldn’t say that I have a natural affinity for snow sports. I am the only person I know who when they first attempted to ski, fell off a poma. Like a beached whale, I couldn’t move out of the way.  I watched as fellow beginners bumped over my legs, some actually managing air time! I was on my way to becoming a human ski jump when Kenn took pity on me, leapt off the poma and dragged me out of the way! Despite this inauspicious start and muscles I never knew I had protesting loudly,  I  eventually managed  to gain some basic skills  but that was a very, very long time ago. Would I even be able to don ski boots again? I could see a few lumps and bumps on my feet that mightn’t  like being squished and squashed.  And would I be able to slide down a mountain without killing anyone?  Should I even try?

But even if I didn’t ski, toboggan or snowshoe,  a holiday in the snow appealed.  Kenn and I have never experienced a White Christmas so this was our big chance. And I knew that Chris, Steve Kenn and I  would have a lot of fun in the snow with Hudson, our adorable 18 month old grandson. His idea of a comfortable pace on a sled built for two was likely to coincide with mine. We like keeping pace with snails. And I was sure a wonderful, cultural experience awaited us in the land of the rising sun. So I knitted some beanies, bought some thermals  and threw them together with some snow gear and my trusty Scarpa  hiking boots and  before you could say  ‘konnichiwa’ I was on my way.

It is only an eight hour flight from the Gold Coast to Narita airport but we all wondered how 18 month old Huddy would cope. With Hudson on board, the time passed swiftly. He introduced himself to his fellow passengers as he stretched his legs every now and then and without any fuss settled down for  long naps on Mummy’s lap.

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With my dummy and my ruggy,  I can sleep anywhere!

At Narita, we met up with Ben’s parents, Steve and Chris and after a good night’s sleep made our way to Tokyo station where we caught the bullet train north to Ilyama.

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Mmm, this is not a bad way to travel. Springs leave a bit to be desired.
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Such cool trains!

Relaxing in our seats, we watched as slowly the urban landscape gave way to countryside …  snowy countryside. We were a little concerned when messages flashed across the screen at the front of the train carriage warning of cancelled services due to recent heavy snow but luckily for us, we didn’t have to build an igloo for the night for the trusty Nosawa Onsen bus was waiting for us in Ilyama.

Driving into Nosawa, we realised that when they said a lot of snow had fallen, a lot of snow had fallen.

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There are cars under there somewhere!

Melissa had booked us into ‘Address Nosawa’, delightful one bedroom studios. These were very well appointed and centrally located. As well as having its own onsen, the complex had a well equipped children’s playroom and  helpful, English speaking staff.

We couldn’t wait to get up close and personal with all that snow!  Lissa and Ben grabbed their snowboards and disappeared up the mountain while Kenn and I took Huddy out to explore the village. The powder was so powdery!  Huddy nearly disappeared into a drift when his hand disappeared and he stuck his head in to see where it had gone. He soon had snow flying everywhere, creating his own Huddy snow storm. And Poppy didn’t help him at all!

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Wow Poppy, look at how my hand just disappears. I didn’t know I was so strong!

And the village was so pretty.

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The temples  were covered by drifts of snow and
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colourful buildings nestled among the trees.
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mysterious signs

Even the actual cobbled streets were attractive, shiny black speckles edged with snow.

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Beautiful manhole covers, celebrating the Nagano Olympics dot the streets. They are part of the excellent drainage system that allows the village to function after heavy snowfalls.  Huddy loved to stamp  up and down on every one he spotted.  I’m happy to report that they all withstood the onslaught.

And there was a dumpling man on the corner of our street!

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So delicious

But there was more. Nosawa has a great children’s snow park at the base of the mountain. All of us couldn’t wait to see Huddy have fun. Granddad Steve introduced him to a travelator which took them to the top of a small slope. Perched on Granddad’s lap, Huddy  took to sledding like a pro. We took it in turns to slide with Huddy, rediscovering that inner child that lives within. Then we branched out and tried the tubes which skidded down the slope with more speed and less control than the sleds! Luckily,  there was a safety fence!

 Huddy also  enjoyed being pulled around the park on a crocodile

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Yep, this is pretty cool

and didn’t say no to a ride on a blue horse.

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Hey dad, Mum is trying to catch us. Can you go a little faster?

He posed dutifully when asked.

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Hi guys. Make it snappy.

With Mummy’s help, he climbed into the castle and onto the big slippery dip.

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Thanks Dad for being ready to catch me.

And so much more. Needless to say Hudson really enjoyed his first visit to the snow. But for us, there was also  so much more.

We delighted in the food, trying different restaurants and little eateries for lunch and dinner each day. We found an quirky cafe tucked away towards the top of the village which served delicious soup and made a great cappuccino and orange chocolate cake.

A Byron friend had recommended going to Daimon Soba for a nabeyaki udon. After a couple of tries, we managed to get a table at this very popular eatery and indeed,  the udon was very filling. The tempura prawns also looked and smelt amazing!

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I still can’t identify everything that was in this bowl, but it was an interesting combination of textures and flavours.

And never to be forgotten was our wonderful teppanyaki experience on New Year’s Eve where every mouthful was exquisite and memorable. While dumplings are the street food of choice in Nosawa, we found some other offerings to sample.

Sharing wonderful meals with family … a highlight. There were also lots of quirky and interesting shops to peruse in search of that perfect souvenir.

But the mountain beckoned. Steve and I decided to take the plunge and give skiing a go.  I was still worried about losing control on the mountain, so after I hired some boots and skis and on the recommendation of the Address Nosawa staff,  I booked a private lesson with Remy, a french ski instructor. He was confident that our  unused skills would magically reappear under his guidance!  So filled with visions of ourselves gliding blissfully down the slopes, We caught the gondola up to the top and  a new world opened up.

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It looked so pretty. Soon Steve and I were snowplowing here and there and Remy announced that we were ready for a run. While I knew what my feet were supposed to be doing in order to turn correctly, I found that they were very disobedient. Suddenly, to my dismay,  I found myself hurtling down the slope about to take Remy out! Just in time,  I snowplowed to a halt, caught my breath and under Remy’s watchful eye, pushed off again! More snow plowing! My thighs were on fire! It was a tortuous, slow descent. I felt really bad, having dashed Remy’s hopes but fortified with green tea, I completed another run with Melissa. It felt so exhilarating to be there on the powder, in the silence surrounded by silent, snowy trees.

 I loved being up on the mountain, and persuaded Kenn to catch the gondola with me the following morning.

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The village disappeared as we soared towards the summit. We had a lovely time with our cameras

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In the snowy landscape, I could spot Kenn easily.
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A study in black and white
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The food was great in the restaurant, a perfect place for lunch.

After so much exercise, a soak in the onsen was a luxury I’ll never forget. Nosawa is blessed with mineral rich hot springs and the village is dotted with free public onsens or hot baths which are maintained by local families.

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All the onsens were a little different in style from each other

Now bathing, Japanese style is not for the prudish. While there are separate male and female baths, the baths are communal and you are expected to soak in them in your birthday suit.

As I mentioned earlier, Address Nosawa has its own private onsen. So I thought that I would take the plunge there first. Grabbing my onsen towel ( which is about the size of a small teatowel) I undressed and entered the washing area. Luckily, I had the onsen all to myself! Address Nosawa supplied beautiful Shiseido products for guests to use and so I scrubbed, shampooed and conditioned till I gleamed and then gingerly made my way to the hot bath. While hot, I found it not too hot and soaked all the stresses of the day away. Kenn and I were hooked. An onsen or two a day kept the aches away!

There is so much more that I would like to share: our amazing tour to see the Snow Monkeys and our brief stay in Tokyo, but it will have to wait for another post. If you have managed to read this post to the end, thank you for sharing a little Japanese snow magic with me.

 

The Perils of Winter Golf

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Spring is almost here and in the Northern Rivers, the weather of late has been perfect for golf: cool mornings and warm days brushed with gentle breezes.  Out on the course, everyone seems happy, even the ducks.  Indeed, we had so much sunny weather in August that I have developed ‘golf foot’.  This condition is not to be confused with ‘trench foot’  which is caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions  and which afflicted our WW1 diggers. Rather it is a condition in which your lower extremities come to resemble your driver in reverse. Legs are tanned by prolonged exposure to the sun while from the ankles down, your feet are silvery white. It’s not a look that you’ll see on the catwalks of Paris anytime soon!

And while it is lovely right now, we’ve had our fair share of wintry conditions. It hasn’t been super cold. Unlike the lady golfers from the Central West of NSW who ventured out to play their weekly comp despite fog and frost and being buffeted  by icy winds fresh from the Alps, we haven’t had to contend with freezing conditions. However we have faced storms, hail and very, very wet conditions.

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The fairway at Cowra! How hard would it be to find a white ball? I wonder  if one is allowed to play golf in Ugg boots? Local rule change? 

In June, we experienced a series of big storms. We could see them approaching but luckily made it through a game without a drenching.

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It was a bit grey and not a lot of run but a little bit of golf was better than no golf at all.

But the storms brought water, a lot of water!  The Mullumbimby golf course went under and was closed for a time. It reopened to walkers only. What we didn’t appreciate until we got to the course was that we weren’t really walking: we were wading and sloshing our way down the fairways.

Did you know that a golf ball can land on a puddle and skip along, skimming the water like a low flying ballistic missile? And just like a ballistic missile, have a homing device attached? I discovered that mine did! Without fail, my balls would come to rest in the deepest, most inaccessible drainage ditch. I’m a slow learner. It took a few lost balls before I dug out my most decrepit balls. But these balls wouldn’t get lost. Isn’t that always the way?

Even with preferred lie, conditions were tough. Balls would soar beautifully through the air only to come back to earth with a plop, nestling comfortably in the oozy mud. They needed and received a good talking to from our irons! Even the greens, where I have felt most comfortable posed real problems. On one green I watched in horror as my ball parted the waters, slowing down as it did so. What should have been a gimme putt became a three or four or five putt but who was counting? On the next, I of course over-compensated.  My ball sailed past the hole onto the other side of the green and into the welcoming arms of a bunker. So considerate of it. Wiping: holes, balls, sticks, shoes, legs, shirts and buggies became the order of the day.

Even when it  started to dry out,  and we could see most of the fairways again, there was still a lot of water and mud about. All the water hazards were full and a mistimed shot spelled disaster. We beginner golfers very quickly came to appreciate the benefits of ‘laying up’ even if we couldn’t execute perfectly.

It was not all doom and gloom. We played with preferred lie and other benefits for over a month. I loved being able to place my ball on top of the rough grass with which I have had a long standing love affair. And it was good to get in all that iron practice. But I was glad when all was dry again. As a beginner golfer, I need all the run I can get.

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Our Tuesday golf group also had a fun golf morning at Byron Bay, followed by morning tea at the Byron at Byron! So civilised!

And so Spring beckons. Determined to make the most of the great weather before the summer heat and humidity set in, we have found ourselves playing up to three times a week:  some social, some comp. While like many, I have preferred playing Stableford, on Saturday I’ve agreed to play my first stroke round.  Wish me luck, I’ll need it.

Oh, I almost forgot. As I was having a golf lesson on Tuesday, my coach Nicky told me that in Japan, Amateurs and Professionals stop for lunch at the end of 9 holes.  Having consumed a delightful lunch and possibly some sake, they cheerfully resume their match. Beats our ten minute comfort break hands down! What do you think?

Happy golfing everyone.

 

 

 

Nanna Knits

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Hudson was having so much fun at  The Farm and doesn’t  he make my knitting look good?

Nanna knits are so very special. I clearly remember how thrilled I was when I received my first Nanna knits. I was 8 weeks pregnant with my first child and in the throes of terrible morning sickness when a box arrived in the post. Nestled within were 12 pairs of booties in four different colours featuring  12 different patterns.  They were so small and so adorable! As I touched each one,  I’m sure that baby Christian could already feel his Nanna’s love.  

And so I’m following family tradition and knitting with love for the grandchildren. When it’s for little ones, there’s a real sense of anticipation when you cast on the stitches for a new project. You’re excited because you’ve found the pattern and chosen that special yarn and can’t wait to see how it knits up so your little one can wear your hand crafted creation. But there’s always a little bit of trepidation as well. Especially if like me, you’re not an expert knitter. Will the pattern prove too challenging? Will there be painful unraveling and re-knitting involved?  And if I’m using a yarn I’ve never knitted with before, will I like it and will they like it when it’s finished? 

I think that everything’s mostly worked out this knitting season.  After all, little ones  run here, jump there and shake it all around, making everything they wear look good. Luckily, the patterns I chose for my projects were also relatively straight forward so there wasn’t too much unraveling involved and my yarn choices pleasantly surprised me. Naturally, as I now have three grandchildren, there were three Nanna Knitting Projects.

Project 1: Francesca’s baby blankets

Baby Francesca arrived in March. Christian and Kelly wondered if I could knit her a super thick, closely knitted blanket. Normally, I would choose to knit a baby blanket in Australian merino wool but thought that a super thick woolen blanket might be too heavy for a baby.  So for the first time, I put aside my prejudices about synthetic fibres and chose  a super bulky acrylic yarn.  I found a pattern on Ravelry that was free and sourced the yarn, Lion brand super bulky premium acrylic,  from Loveknitting.com.  As it was knitted on a big circular needle, it knitted up very quickly.

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As you can see, the blanket features a moss stitch border with a simple cable detail.
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Despite its thickness, the blanket was very soft and light.

Because it was finished so quickly, I had time to knit another just for fun. This time, instead of an acrylic yarn I used a bulky cotton yarn, Elenna, which I found in my local Spotlight  store. Deciding to experiment, I created  a simple garter stitch, unisex blanket knitted on the diagonal. It too, was finished in no time. I could become a fan of bulky yarns and super fat needles.

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My design worked out better than I hoped. I liked the textual feel of the cotton too.

Project 2: Huddy’s Knits

And of course I had to knit an item or two for Hudson who  turned one in June. However, because we enjoy a mild winter here in Byron, I decided to knit in cotton. Again I sourced my yarn from Loveknitting.com. For his cardigan I chose King Cole 4ply bamboo cotton and for his jumper, Sonora, an 8ply cotton yarn by Bergere de France. 

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The bamboo cotton yarn was lovely to knit with. The stitch definition is great and I really liked how fine and how soft the finished cardigan is The yarn is thinner than 4ply  wool but has a lovely sheen and drape. Huddy has worn it a lot. It’s perfect for our mild winter days. This yarn would make a great spring or summer cardi in cooler climes and the cardigan only took one ball of yarn!
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This yarn from Bergere de France was also great to knit with.  I liked it so much that I wanted to knit a jumper for myself but alas, the yarn has been discontinued. This was a super easy pattern and again, a great weight for our winter.

But then I saw this pattern online by an independent designer, Oge designs,  and just had to knit it.  (I fell in love with the owls)  I knitted it in Paton’s superfine merino 8ply. This yarn is also a delight to knit with and I was really pleased with the result. And luckily, we have had enough cooler days for Hudson to wear it.

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Interestingly, the designer has used reverse stocking stitch to make the little cabled owls pop. I would like to try using stocking stitch as the right side next time to show off the beautiful stitch definition of this particular yarn. 

Project 3: Genevieve’s cardigans.

And I couldn’t forget Genevieve who dances her way through the day. Her cardigans are still a little big!!!   Oops! While I did knit them to the pattern and yarns recommended, that’s the way of it sometimes. Hopefully, they’ll fit her properly next year.

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Little details make the difference. I learnt a couple of new techniques here. Thank goodness for Utube!

Oh and I nearly forgot. I’ve knitted a couple of beanies for some of the grownups, reducing my stash of wool in the process.  I might have to go shopping to replenish it. After all, you never know when inspiration will strike for next year’s projects.

 

 

Chair Workshop for Cancer Research

Our teacher demonstrates!
Our teacher demonstrates!

Like so many, my life has been touched by Cancer. I lost my mother far too soon to the effects of Lung Cancer. I miss her. She never had the opportunity to see her grandchildren grow up, graduate from university,  attend their weddings or hold a great-grandchild as her mother did. So, my sisters and I have always supported fundraising efforts for Cancer research. To that end, like many others I have sold raffle tickets, attended concerts, volunteered my services as  a washer upper at various functions and cut up oodles of onions for a sausage sizzle. But never before have I participated in a Chair workshop in an effort to raise money for Cancer research!

Why now, you might ask? Well because this year, the Cancer Council decided to hold a fundraiser in Byron Bay entitled:

 starsofbyronshire2015.everydayhero.com

My good friend Helen Jarvis landed the pole dancing gig.  Together with her tutor Candace, she has been mastering a pole dancing routine to present on Saturday night. As well, Helen and the other contestants have been raising money with various endeavours. Candace offered to run an all girls chair workshop, donating the proceeds and the rest, as they say is history.

I was told to wear gym gear and bring high heels. I donned my yoga pants, an over sized tshirt and collected my only pair of high heels, if shoes with a 4cm heel can be described as high.   My friend Neroli had also agreed to support Helen and together, we headed off to Circus Arts at the Industrial Estate at Byron. We didn’t  know what to expect but vaguely thought that we would be prancing around a chair, striking a few poses, while we giggled at our foolishness. But it was so, so much more! We were learning a proper dance routine!

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Helen and the class hard at work

Initially, we had to stand beside our chairs with one foot on the seat. Yay, my leg could stretch that far. We had to bend and stretch in a provocative manner, slapping  and rolling our bottoms. Well, my bottom was in need of cellulite removal, so no problem, I slapped  away enthusiastically. We had to balance on our knees on the chair before  raising one leg towards the ceiling in an elegant manner and swishing our heads around.  I tried to swish, got vertigo, wobbled and nearly fell off.  But worse was to follow. The beautiful Candace demonstrated the  chair straddle. And we too tried to straddle …

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My legs only just made it over the chair. There was absolutely no chance of me being able to do the splits in this position. I was simply hanging onto the chair for dear life.

We also tried to drape ourselves side wise over the chair and complete fan kicks. I invented a new move: the hobble as the fan was beyond me. To make matters worse,  my shimmy was more of a shammy. In truth, I only excelled at standing  still beside the chair rocking from one leg to the other.

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This was how the shimmy was supposed to be executed.

Finally, it was time to put our moves together in a routine…to music! The only thing I can say is,  I know I’m  not suffering from Dementia. I could remember all the moves; it was their execution that was problematical.

My preconceptions about this being an easy activity were shattered, It was the most challenging thing that I’ve attempted for a long time. Muscles I had been unaware of, made their presence known. However, it was a lot of  fun. Neroli and I laughed and giggled heaps and would do it again maybe …  for Cancer Research.

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On the chair again! check out Candace and her workshops aat http://www.polecatz,com.au

Melissa’s Kitchen High Tea

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The scene is set!

 “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue  and a silver sixpence in her shoe,” are tokens of good luck that a bride traditionally carries on her wedding day. Something old represents continuity; something new offers optimism for the future; something borrowed symbolises borrowed happiness; something blue stands for love and fidelity; and a sixpence in your shoe is a wish for good fortune and prosperity.

This traditional rhyme captures the hopes, good wishes and above all else, the love that brings friends and family together for a wedding. What it doesn’t capture is the fun involved; both in the preparations and the event itself. To begin the countdown to the wedding and wishing for Lissa to feel a connection with our family’s country traditions, I decided to host a kitchen tea for her. I felt sure, that fueled with champagne, my friends, the bridesmaids and Lissa’s girlfriends would offer her hilarious and sage advice concerning her future wifely duties. I envisioned this event in the back garden and thankfully, the weather gods complied.

party table decorated with herb challenge
Table decorated with hot pink table runner, ferns, pansies and the Herb Challenge ready to go

Unfortunately, I couldn’t serve just champagne for Afternoon Tea. My wonderful girlfriend, Julie offered to help me with the cooking but I couldn’t leave everything to her, much as I wanted to.

The wonderful, thoughtful and hardworking Julie
The wonderful, thoughtful and hardworking Julie

So, I practised my high tea skills. Alas, I’m no Adriano Zumbo. I had to cross chocolate macaroons off the menu as mine resembled the dark side of the Moon. I experimented with gluten free vanilla cup cakes, wrestling with piping bags and butter cream frosting. (It looked so easy on Youtube!) Still, they passed the taste test and didn’t look too bad when I smothered them in decorations. Wanting to serve mini lemon and caramel tarts, I blind baked pastry for the first time. Imagine my relief when they came out perfectly. Not a burnt crust among them! I only had to practice the time-honoured country art of scone making. I had assured Melissa that Scone making was in our genes! My mother could turn out a wonderful batch of scones in no time flat without having to measure a thing: surely so could I? Friends gave me the lemonade and cream recipe, however the scones didn’t rise enough for my liking. Next came a melted butter recipe. Disappointment ruled my kitchen! Finally, I adapted a traditional recipe and remembering Mum’s secret touches, a great batch.emerged from the oven needing only strawberry jam and cream.

Feeling reasonably confident that my guests wouldn’t starve, I organised the games that we would play. In keeping with the culinary theme, I decided on an identify a herb game.

Geranium is not a herb is it?
Geranium is not a herb is it?

There were ten herbs to identify including Lovage and the Mother of all Herbs There was much merriment and discussion as the pots were passed around, closely examined and answer sheets filled in.

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The girls are having fun
Rachek, bride to be, Melissa, Toni and Helen
And so is the bride to be

There was also a Masterchef Challenge. The wonderful people at the Pass Cafe provided a tray of their unique gluten free brownies and a list of the ingredients. Everyone had to taste and decide what the ingredients were. These were so delicious that it was difficult to concentrate on separating the tastes in your mouth! This did provide a great segue into Afternoon Tea proper.

Chocolate brownie bliss
Chocolate brownie bliss
So much deliciousness
So much deliciousness

It was very difficult to choose what to have first! One good thing about fine china cups, saucers and plates is that the plates are small so that you don’t feel guilty about having seconds or indeed thirds. I couldn’t resist Leone’s White chocolate berry cheesecake or Julie’s chicken and cucumber sandwiches. And  I really do think that tea tastes so much better in bone china tea cups, don’t you?

Feeling very relaxed and replete, it was time for Lissa to open her presents. Helen got proceedings off to a hilarious start. She had Lissa don kitchen attire that would keep her future husband, Ben very interested in the kitchen, though one could wonder what was on the menu!

All that's missing is the g-string
All that’s missing is the g-string

Each lovely gift came with a family recipe and the story behind it.  I had sent the recipe cards out with the invitations.  Lissa was thrilled. I’m sure, she’ll enjoy making each of them  and adding to them as she embraces married life.

My gift was a sentimental one.As  Lissa loves candles,  I asked Kate Hogan,  Lissa’s cousin, creator of beautiful hand-crafted soy candles produced under her brand (www.numberninetyseven.com.au)  to make three special candles for Melissa. They will celebrate Ben and Melissa’s first Christmas as a married couple, their first anniversary and the birth of their first child. I wrote a small verse for each candle and Kate and her sister, Mel, did the rest. They were simply stunning.

it smells so good
it smells so good

It was time for more fun. The bridesmaids, Toni and Brooke, volunteered to be models as the rest of us created two alternative wedding dresses for Melissa out of toilet paper and masking tape. Don’t they look adorable?

Here come the brides
Here come the brides

More champagne and all too soon, it was home time. It had been such a fun afternoon!  Lissa and I had put together a small collection of kitchen goodies which we wrapped in a flour sack tea towel to thank our guests for coming.

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Love is definitely in the air!