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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Japanese Snow Monkeys

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Hot stone massage anyone?

One of the highlights of our recent trip to Nosawa Onsen was the tour we took with ixsmtravel.com to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park which was about an hour away from Nosawa by bus. Some say travel is more about the journey than the destination and at first I would have had to agree: the view from our windows was breathtaking.

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Thick drifts of snow covered the fields

 

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and rivers quietly flowed watched over by the mountains which surrounded us on all sides

Arriving at the Snow Monkey Park, our bus driver had to park a fair distance from the entrance but not deterred we plodded up the hill to the starting point. We all  thought that the two kilometre walk to the Snow Monkeys would be a walk in the park. But  no-one had warned us about just how slippery the narrow path could be. Although we were all wearing proper hiking boots, we all found ourselves slip sliding away as if we were on an ice rink. And I can’t skate!  So we had to go slowly, very slowly for I could far too easily imagine myself turning into a human toboggan, hurtling down the mountainside.

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 Ben showed his exceptional balance and stamina as he carried Huddy on his shoulders the whole way.

Still inching one’s way along has an up side. There was plenty of time to admire the scenery.

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Snowy forest surrounded us on all sides
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And the light breaking through the treetops was lovely

The narrow path eventually led to the  valley of the Yokoyu-River where steam and boiling water bubble out of small crevices in the frozen ground earning the name ‘Jigokudani’ meaning “Hell’s Valley.” But it didn’t seem too hellish to us!

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You climb up from this point to where the snow monkeys make their home. They are very used to humans. Some blithely padded past us on the way up.

It was worth the effort. We saw monkeys frolicking with their babies, monkeys enjoying a dip in the steamy waters and  monkeys scampering up the mountainside.

And one was keeping watch, checking out the tourists. Examining us as we were examining him.

All too soon, our English speaking guide, who was a delightful girl from Northern Italy, asked us to start making our way back.

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From this vantage point, the path seems to go on forever.

After visiting the Snow Monkeys, the tour took us to the historic village of Shibu Onsen. This was once a village that was frequented by samurai, wandering poets and travellers  who, while bathing in the healing waters of the village’s onsens,  took the opportunity to rest and recuperate. Indeed legend says that good fortune will come to those who bathe in all the town’s onsens.

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If you decide to undertake this quest, you are issued with a special card which you then stamp as you visit each onsen.  

In this village, we were able to get a feel for the ‘old’ Japan. The narrow streets were lined by wooden buildings which were hundreds of years old.

There were  interesting shops to explore. Huddy discovered that he loved Japanese biscuits!

There was even a fountain which reputedly bestows good health and long life on those who drink from it. I couldn’t resist. I had to sip. It was  a little metallic tasting but not unpleasant and you never know …

And of course there was a temple to visit as well. By now it was mid afternoon and the temperature was dropping. The arrival of our bus to carry us home was very welcome.

This was a great day out. Try to make room for it on your next snow holiday to Nosawa Onsen. And remember wear shoes suitable for snow and ice!

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.

 

 

 

Vividly alive in Sydney

 

Last week I found myself on the Manly ferry as the sun was setting. I took in the familiar sights of the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, relishing the taste of fresh, cold sea air.

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I love that it was beautiful but different from home, for it has been lovely in Byron Bay of late. Perfect winter weather, perfect walking weather.

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For walking along Main beach in the mid afternoon
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and  past the Pandanus palms at  Wategoes
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and  strolling down to the Pass. We’re watching for whales but haven’t spotted any yet.

Even walking around the lake closer to home has been lovely.

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Anyone for a seat?

But back in Sydney, as the ferry steamed towards Manly, all too soon, the sun set and clouds gathered.

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As I watched the moon break through stormy clouds and ripple its light across the harbour, I thought about Uncle Neil.  Last week, aged  92, he passed away. At his memorial service, family and friends remembered a quiet, clever but always loving man who had lived a really good life; a life that like the moonlight,  softly touched so many for the better.

While I mourned the reason for our reunion, it was good to see my city and country cousins. Life is always an adventure when they are around. Travelling back into the city from Sutherland,  I was able to appreciate my cousin Beth’s advanced driving skills at close range. Exiting the Eastern distributor and swinging a right across a couple of lanes into Macquarie St, Beth spotted a park and paralleled parked her 4WD in under a minute. All this in the dark, in peak hour traffic and in the midst of a festival! It was a maneuver beyond my wildest dreams and all under the watchful eyes of a police car which just happened to be parked behind us!

Soon we were making our goodbyes and I headed down Macquarie St to Circular Quay to  see some of the fantastic Vivid lights on my way home. Vivid Sydney is a festival of light, music and ideas. Beautiful light and laser shows illuminate, interpret and transform Sydney’s urban spaces with a unique creative vision. These lights transform Sydney into a wonderland that is free for all to enjoy. As well there is an innovative contemporary music program.

Earlier, my son Christian and his family had gone to Vivid at the Zoo where young and old alike were entranced by the light sculptures and the laser display.

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I am going to go next year!

So I was very keen to see the Opera House and the foreshore which serves as the heart of the festival. I was not disappointed even though I couldn’t really capture it with my camera phone.

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The Opera House sails was a constantly evolving tapestry
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The jewel colours of the foreshore buildings reflected in the water
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The harbour bridge looks awesome with the lasers. 

But this was a fleeting, family visit. We are definitely going to plan a Vivid holiday next year.

All too soon, I was back on the plane, headed for home. I had a window seat and as I took one last look at Sydney, I thought that it was fitting that Uncle Neil should leave us in the middle of festival such as Vivid, surrounded by light, never to be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Walks in the Bay

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Matilda making her first snowman in her Grandmother’s garden in Woodstock.

As the weather man predicted, much of Eastern Australia is in the grip of an Antarctic vortex. It has snowed in places where it hasn’t snowed for fifty years! My family and friends down south have posted instagram pics of gardens and paddocks adrift with snow. I peruse fine details. Are those Jenny’s sunglasses on that snowman, I wonder?  Mmm, it has been too long since I played in the snow. I would love to be there with Jenny and Monique, sloshing around the garden in gumboots and thick socks helping little Matilda to build her first snowman and … landing a snowball or two on unsuspecting victims!  It would be a perfect winter walk.

But envy isn’t good for the soul. And Winter brings its own marvels to Byron Bay. It is usually delightfully warm and sunny during the day, around 22 degrees Celsius, with low humidity. Perfect walking weather. When the winter tides move the sand back around The Pass, it is possible to walk from Main Beach to Little Wategoes along the sand.  The sky is winter blue as Kenn and I stroll along Main Beach.

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Main beach at low tide, heading for The Pass

Soon, we’re at The Pass. I can’t believe that there is so much sand. Not a rock in sight on the path.

Walking through the Pass, no rocks to stop me!
Walking through The Pass, no rocks to stop me!

Rounding the headland, we negotiate the inlets. Who doesn’t love to run around a rocky outcrop, beating the waves? Occasionally, our feet get wet.

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Can I make it? Yes I can!

Then we’re at Wategoes Beach and the going is easy. Strolling past the Pandanus palms, I follow the curve of the beach around to Little Wategoes. There are more rock canyons to negotiate.  We feel like explorers. There is no one else here except the starfish in the rock pools and the whales in the bay.

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More rocks to negotiate.

We make it and there is a treat in store!

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Spray-tacular

At the end of the beach, we watch as the ocean puts on a spectacular show. We are so lucky to be here, at this time, for free!  We sink onto the sand and rest awhile. Before the tide changes, we make our way back to Main Beach where a perfect scene awaits.

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Surfing anyone?

This warm winter walk has been  memorable. But I have a confession to make: right at this moment, I’d rather be a’snowing with little Matilda and Jenny in Woodstock.

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Jenny and Albie snow it up!