Saturday, December 30, 2006

We've been to see the Queens

One of the great advantages of having my mother live so close is that I have someone to go and see girl movies with. We neither of us want to see blood 'n guts, shoot-em-up, car-chase stuff.

So on Boxing Day we went to see The Queen. Helen Mirren was fantastic, as all the reviews have pointed out, but so was the rest of the cast. We particularly liked the portrayal of Prince Charles by Alex Jennings, but all of it was good. There weren't many in the theatre, and during the scenes of Diana's death and the surrounding grief I could hear sniffling - somebody was really getting into it. Afterwards I asked Mum if she knew where the sniffles were. "It was ME" she said. She says she always cries at the movies!

Today we went to see a Queen of quite a different ilk - Marie Antoinette. How different can two women be? One Queen sees her role as a lifetime of service to her people, the other as a license for personal extravagance. Kirsten Dunst plays a very engaging and likeable girl in a very difficult position, and it is easy to forgive her for all her frivolity, and to understand it. The reviews are right - the fashions are gorgeous and the colour and sumptuousness of it all make for a splendid movie.

Now for the really important comparison of the two films. Those frolicking little corgis in The Queen were very cute indeed, with their smiling faces. Cute, yes. But not Pugs.

The opening scene of Marie Antoinette features a silver fawn pug puppy (Mops) curled up with M-A, and there is a tear-welling moment later when she is separated from Mops as she leaves Austria for France. Fortunately there are more little dogs at the court in Versailles, including a very puggish Black Pug. Tres chic!

And here, because you can't have enough Pug Pictures, is one of Jonty in a typical pose:

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tales of Christmas gifts

We had a wonderful Christmas with the family. Here is a photo and Julie's blog about the day.

A couple of gifts were worth mentioning. I had taken to heart some of the affluenza discussion from Heather's blog, particularly her mother's Christmas list. I mentioned it to Julie, who duly noted it, and I was presented with a dishcloth! A yellow Chux Superwipe, to be entirely accurate. What a good daughter! There were other goodies, of course.

The best of all was a set of four DVDs. Not just any DVDs. Ooh no. These were really special. For years and years I have blathered on about a BBC show I saw decades ago. It made a huge impression on me, and I have yearned for it ever since. Called Talking to a Stranger it has lots of entries on the web, but it was not available to buy. We've spent years wistfully searching for it. I found one site that listed it as being in someone's collection, but emails were fruitless. I'd given up, thinking of it along the lines of a live performance - enjoyed once, then gone.

But the Great Sleuth had not given up. He did his annual search, and this time persisted through the 1,810,000 sites listed, past all the sites in Russian and Polish and Japanese, on through the Roumanians, the Lithuanians, and on and on. Suddenly he saw this site listed

I can only imagine what it must have felt like for him to find it. He contacted Stan and Jeri, ordered it, and wrapped it in Christmas paper. He kept quiet about it, but said he had a corker of a present for me! He also videoed me opening it. I went pink, got teary, was amazed, clutched the discs to me, and wanted to go home immediately to watch it. This is on the same scale as when Julie found me all the episodes of Quark I had wanted for years.

So we've been watching them. There are four episodes, each one told from the perspective of one family member. We have watched the first, daughter Judi Dench, then father, Maurice Denham. They are intense, gritty, black and white, talky, fascinating. You certainly couldn't watch them too often, but they are as compelling as I remember. As the same scenes are shown over and over, each time from a different perspective, your perception of the characters shifts. A tour de force for the performers, and a tour de force for present-giving. Thank you, Great Sleuth!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mistressing the technique

There are people who craft because they like the results, and there are others who just like the process. In the best of all possible worlds, you craft because you like doing it AND you like the results. I am more of a process person. I usually like the results, but I am a junkie for a new technique. You can learn anything if you have the right instructions, so a good book or video with good instructions opens a world of new things to try.

It begins with the book, and the desire to try it. Then you gather the materials. With materials in hand and book open, you awkwardly try and understand, follow the instructions, and make your hands do something quite unfamiliar. It feels like you are all thumbs. Your hands and fingers get cramped, your shoulders are tight, you squint, rip out, drop stitches, swear.

Then gradually, slowly, you discover that if you hold the wool/thread/beads/shuttle/knitting needles just SO, and if you put this finger just HERE, and twist ever so slightly as you make THIS stitch, it starts to go quicker. The facility increases, your new product grows, and eventually you whip along at great pace and wonder what on earth you found so difficult at the beginning.

Julie wondered in her last comment on this blog whether there were any beads in my future. When I stopped laughing, I thought about the next little project. There were still beads strung on crochet cotton left over from the beaded purse. Once beads are ON the cotton, it is too distressing to take them off again. I decided to re-visit bead knitting.

The beaded purse was simple - you slip the required number of beads, then knit a couple of stitches. With bead knitting, however, you push a bead into the knitted stitch. I've done this before. I started with a sample of 12 stitches of assorted purple and silver beads which had been strung in a pattern which was going to be a crochet rope, (another interesting technique) but with which I had lost patience. I knitted one bead into every stitch, twisted stockinette stitch. The resulting piece curled in on itself, so I added a clasp and it became a necklace for a friend. I liked the result so much I made another for myself. People often comment on it when I wear it.

I thought that I might have enough seed beads on the black cotton to do another necklace. So I cast on 12 stitches to my tiny knitting needles and began. Hmmmm. I had forgotten the technique. Off to one of my beading books. Couldn't find the instructions. Where was that other beading book??? Oh yes, that was a library book. Up to the Library. No, it was the other library, way up in Gordon. Hmmm. Off to the web, where I found and ordered a copy of the library book for my own collection. And I found this book/video on knitting beaded bags (divine) and ordered that too.

Back to my first beading book, looked more closely, and there were the full instructions. Yesterday was a struggle to re-mistress the technique. Today I'm getting faster and better at it. Here is the right side - you'll see some spots are beadless if you look carefully, and you'll see I am getting better at it. You can also see how it curls over to make a very effective rope. I might not have enough beads for a necklace but I'll keep going until I've knitted them all.

Here is the wrong side, showing just a peek of the bead through the knitted fabric.

Are there more beaded things in my future. You betcha! Happy Christmas, everyone.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The beaded purse is done

Yesterday I finished the knitting. Today I consulted with Mum and Michael about whether it should be lined, and we decided it needed to be. So I found some blue silk for lining and stitched it to the purse. Then I stitched it to the purse frame that came with the kit, and the sides. It is done! I am very happy with it, and shall probably carry it around with coins in it for a while. Maybe it can replace my very old and very tatty purse that goes to the beach with me - just big enough for some coins, a note or two, and a driver's license. It was surprisingly easy to do, and quick. Very satisfying.

Now I can get back to veggie knitting - the black jumper.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Welcome to the worms

As reported a while ago, we booked into a course run by the City of Sydney Council on worm farming and composting. It involved two hours one Sunday, and the main attraction was the free worm farm plus instructions on how to use it. We went, and it was fascinating. We spent one hour on the worm farming, and another hour on composting.

The original idea was to give up composting in favour of worm farming. However, the course inspired my passion for composting anew, and I realised that I didn't need to give it up entirely, just make a few adjustments. So now we are both worm farmers AND composters.

First of all, we assembled the worm farm kit, bought a starter pack of worms and installed them in their new home, in our very small back garden. We have started to feed them - avocado, lightly microwaved asparagus, mango. They seem to like that (who wouldn't?) and appear to be thriving. We are very excited about this new venture, and I have to stop myself peeking too often. They don't like light, and when I lift their covering of damp newspaper they go squiggling out of sight. I can hardly wait to be knee deep in worm castings and worm juice.

Now for the compost. We gave our old bin to Julie, so we had to look for a replacement. We found one at Bunning's , a bit higher than the old one, and a smaller diameter in the base. A perfect fit for our garden. Into this bin I put some chicken wire as a base to stop rats and mice getting into it. Finally, we bought a Compost Mate which is like a huge corkscrew. It aerates the compost and turns it, and also extracts lumps of it for chucking on the garden. I shall report on it when I have used it.

I've been a composter for years and years, and the interregnum has been awful. I feel so guilty throwing perfectly compostable stuff into the garbage, it really goes against the grain. It is wonderful to have it back again, and the addition of the worm farm is terrific. It isn't too ugly, doesn't take up too much space, and we are all happy. Let's hope the new arrangement isn't so attractive to the unwanted wildlife.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ebb and flow in King Street

King Street Newtown is just a couple of blocks from where I live, and it is usually described as vibrant! It certainly has lots of wildlife, and is never dull. The shops and restaurants come and go, some quickly, others stay for a long time. We watch it with interest. Whenever anything new comes along we somehow completely forget what was there before.

The latest up-and-coming cuisine looks like it might be Mexican. For a while there, Thai and Indian ruled the strip, but now there are two new Mexican ones. We've been wanting to try Guzman y Gomez for a while, but since we eat out mainly at lunch on weekdays, and they aren't open for lunch on weekdays, we haven't tried it yet. Yesterday we spotted a new one - BBNT for Burgers, Burritos, Nachos and Tacos. What a terrible website THAT one is! It doesn't list the Newtown restaurant, each button opens a new window which can only be closed, bumping you right back to the very front page. Ridiculous. The food, however, was good. They were slow, just getting their act together, I'd say, and they were just (proudly) filling their largest order ever. We didn't mind waiting, watching the passers-by on King Street. I ate two tacos, one chicken, one beef. Not the usual mushy mince meat fillings, but chunky and savoury grilled meats with spicy overtones. Very good.

After our eats my mother and I strolled down South King Street to poke around the vintage stuff, the quirky boutiques and weirdo places. Two of my very favourite shops are down there. The button shop - All Buttons Great and Small - and the ribbon and braid shop - Aviamentos. STOP! What's this? Oh No! Aviamentos is GONE, empty. It was a treasure trove of ribbons, cords, braids, rickrack, tassels, all kinds of wondrous things. I am so sad to see it go. Bollywood Braid & Trim, a little further down, has some fabulous things, but Aviamentos will be very much missed.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The snowdomes are out

Yes, it is Christmas time again and time for the snowdomes to come out of their hidey holes. Christmas is a time for snow, and for tacky decorations, so this is their time in the sun. During the year they live in hiding, avoiding dust and dusting, but now they are out in force. Some live on the mantelpiece in the dining room, along with a waterfall of tinsel.

Some live on a side table around the lava lamp.

This year's crop are together on the mantelpiece in the loungeroom - Brussels, Berlin, Nagoya, Honolulu (which lights up with different colours) and more. A lesson Michael learned was that they don't travel well - the Berlin one lost its water, and the windmill from Holland lost its water and its globe. It is the domeless dome.

We have a tree as well, only a small one, with lots of pug ornaments on it and a couple of domes around its base.

In addition to snowdomes, we like to buy Christmas ornaments on our travels. This array comes from Lousiana, Nebraska, Washington, Quebec, and Monterrey (Mexico). On the far lower right you can see a tatted one - yes, I made that one, and it was to be the first in a series. I guess it is - a series of one!

Do you think that's enough Christmas stuff for one small house? Thank heavens it is only once a year.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Whoever thought it was a good idea to include statistics on Windows Solitaire games??? Do I REALLY want to know that I (yes, me personally) have played over 4,400 games of Spider Solitaire Medium level and won 20% of them? Do I REALLY want to know that between us (since the last time we cleared the stats) that we have won 71% of our Freecell games? What about those arguments about losing umpteen games in a row - "Have you been playing Freecell and losing! I've worked ALL DAY to get those stats back up to 72% and you've lost four games in a row....."

Now blog statistics, that is another matter. SiteMeter is a button at the bottom of my blog, and if you click it you can see who has been accessing the site in all kinds of ways. I just adore the world map with the lights on where readers have come from - Finland, Spain, all kinds of exotic locales. Their entry pages are also listed, so I can see those users who have come to me because of their search for 'starch tatting'. Being, as you know, a sucker for applause and for readers, SiteMeter is a well-visited site of mine. Where are you, my readers? With SiteMeter, I know.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The sound of two hands clapping

A few things have come together recently which gave me a new understanding of myself.

The first was reading an article about Catherine Hewgill, a cellist healing from a broken wrist. The key phrase was "My husband said I wasn't happy unless I was being clapped at five times a week. He said I was a nightmare to live with."

The second was our four performances of the Messiah, which got a good review in the Sydney Morning Herald, and which got much applause at each performance. (Yes, the transport gods smiled and I did get back from Melbourne in time for the Tuesday and Thursday performances.) Being only one of more than 500, of course I assumed ALL the applause was for me. It gives one a very warm glow, being clapped! The days between those performance, where there was no applause, were a bit dull. I had to ask Michael if he would occasionally and spontaneously give me some! He obliged.

An audience is a wonderful thing. Whether they be listeners or readers, I've loved being in front of audiences and revelled in their applause when presenting conference papers. I adored getting positive feedback from readers when I wrote Online Currents, a newsletter about the information industry.

The third and final event was a meeting of all those involved in the PILIN project this last week. We were asked to say something about ourselves that nobody knew. I turned that around, and said that I had just learned something about myself that everybody else already knew, and that was that I just love receiving applause. They all clapped, and I sat down very happy. We discussed it later, and all agreed that positive feedback is a wonderful thing and I am not alone in enjoying it. We all need it, whether it be from co-workers, customers, your boss, your friends, your family. Some jobs give you more of it than others. Peformers, trainers, technical support people, speakers, authors, and teachers get it if they are lucky. Kind words, applause, appreciation, we shouldn't ever understimate its importance.

Friday, December 08, 2006

First performance

Last night was our first performance of the Messiah. It was just wonderful. Julie was surprised when the audience stood for the Hallelujah Chorus, but I told her it was traditional. Mostly we sang the right notes, mostly we came in where we should have done, and mostly we stood/sat when we should have done. I found it terribly easy to get caught up in listening to the performance and being caught a little short when it was our turn to sing! None of us suddenly chorused forth when we should have been quiet. Generally it went well, and by the fourth performance we should be pretty good. We are trying to persuade the Man and the Boy to attend, and maybe they will.

It wasn't a knitter-free performance by a long shot. After all, Julie and I were there, but so too was BlueMountainsKnits, who looks after lighting in the Opera House. She took a picture of the choir, and if you search very closely, you can see Julie and I singing away.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Reference Collection

Once upon a time, before computers, I was a reference librarian at a university library. The reference collection was a treasure trove of information for the curious. I loved that collection, and knew it intimately. Every request would send me rushing off to a dictionary, encyclopedia, directory, index, or arcane catalogue. I loved the Great Wall that was Chemical Abstracts, the massive volumes of the Library of Congress pre-1956 Imprints. I adored the Sotheby's catalogues with their beautiful glossy pictures of antique objects. The Book of Saints was well worth perusing, and there were lots of other delights.

Our home reference collection is pretty extensive, and well used - for crosswords as well as curiosity. The dictionary collection includes a 2 volume facsimile of the first great dictionary by Johnson, as well as the Shorter Oxford, the Concise Oxford (with its own magnifying glass), the Macquarie, and a US Webster's Collegiate. The teenager next door needed a definition of biomass for school one time, and we went through each one looking. He was impressed by the extent of the collection. Surprisingly, we found it in only one of the dictionaries (and their appendices) - the Webster's.

Then there are the other much loved works: Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science & Technology; the three-volume Cyclopedia of Names (very dated, but what a concept! My favourite reference work); the NY Times Crossword Puzzle Dictionary; Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable; Bartlett's Familiar Quotations; two encyclopedias of music (we gave each other one accidentally for Christmas one year); Bullfinch's Mythology; The Times World Atlas; The Enclopedia of Science Fiction; two Baseball Encyclopedias (reams of statistics that The Man knows by heart); The very weighty and well illustrated History of Art and the Oxford Companion to Art; and too many more to list. I love and use them all.

Once a week or so I go to work at the Library at University of NSW. For exercise and a trip down memory lane the other day I went for a browse in their reference collection. It all looked so OLD! So much dead paper, so many directories, indexes and yearbooks with stuff that must all be available on the web. This is by no means a reflection of the age of that particular collection, but I really did wonder who uses this material these days. My own collection is getting more rarely used now that I have broadband. The web is the source of so much information that I really do wonder about the relevance of the print resource.

It feels traitorous to say so out loud, but have reference collections had their day?

I was so excited by the information revolution back then, in the 1970's, and to see the effect it has had suddenly became very real to me.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Technomoment 3

Don't you wonder what you ever did before memory sticks? Floppy disks, burning stuff to CD, what a pain that all was. Memory sticks, or as Alexander Downer once called them in a lovely malapropism, message sticks, make life so much easier.

They can be a bit tricky though, as I'm sure all users know. Some computers just don't want to read some sticks, so sometimes if your life depends on some file or other, you take two sticks, or you copy the file somewhere on a wiki or the web for easy access.

Another pitfall I encountered is that you can indeed cram too much on them. My first, beloved stick seized up on me a while ago. It said it had something like 35 MB left on it (a 128 MB drive) which in the olden days would have seemed an ENORMOUS amount of space. But it wouldn't do anything.

Nothing could be deleted (using Windows XP.) Nothing would copy, or open. It wouldn't format using Control Panel/Administrative Tools/Disk Management either.

Back to native DOS then. (OK you youngsters, you can call it the Command Prompt if you must). Yup, I could see the files there. Try the dreaded format *.* command. (yes, I've done that with dire effect years ago.) Are you sure Y/N? Yes, I was sure. Nope, DOS wasn't sure at all, and told me it couldn't be dismounted or formatted or anything.

Hmmm. A long time went by, and I forgot about it until today. I thought the only source of a file I needed was THAT stick. So I mucked around again. Tried formatting again. Sigh!

Then I thought - if the problem is that the disk is too full, and I can't delete anything off it using Windows, perhaps I can delete some of the files using DOS. Would it work? Yes indeed, it did work. I deleted files manually until I had more room, then tried it in Windows. Hooray! Everything was just fine. Now why didn't I think of that before?

So just be aware out there, if you stuff too much on your stick, it will seize up on you, but there is a way out.

No, the file I was looking for was not on the stick. Sigh!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The bright side..... and the dark side

Now that Julie's birthday is over, I can think about Christmas. Stage 1 of the decorations is done, the lights are up, festooning the front of the house. These icicles have a number of settings, including one really frantic flashing set that could give an epileptic an attack! It is slightly hysterical, and I love it.

Getting those lights up is always fun. This is my job, as I do ladders rather better than someone else who lives here. A couple of years ago I put cup-hooks up there, so now it is simply a matter of getting the ladder out from the side of the house, and hooking the lights up.

Which brings me to the dark side. The side passageway is rarely used. It is very narrow. The ladder must be brought from about the middle of the house to the front. I have blogged earlier about the rat problem. There on the path was a dead rat. Or what was left of it. A kind of awful rat-smear. Smelly. "Yikes," I shouted, to the man of the house. "there is a decomposed rat here and I can't deal with it, and I am just going to pretend it isn't here!" Truly, I am not good at dealing with dead rats. Julie and I share an early Portia the Rat Killer story... no, let's not go there.

The Man of the House got a shovel and broom, and dealt with it like the brave hero he is. The corpse was taken to the railway line, under the fence, where it will decompose further. Deodorant spray was deployed.

I continued to hang the lights - a dirty job even without the wildlife - and am very happy with the results. End of Phase 1 Christmas decorations. Picture below. You are spared pictures of the rat.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Hands off that remote control...

There I was on Saturday, focussing on my beaded knitting, when I looked up and saw this:

Yes, bird sitting on the couch, on the remote control! It must have just hopped in the back door and seen what was on television, and decided to change the channel. It was a quiet bird, didn't even budge when I took pictures of it. I slowly got up and closed some of the internal doors in the house. Moved towards it, and it hopped off and outside. It went into the laundry to investigate things there. It appeared to have something wrapped around its left foot, and I considered ways of capturing it and wrestling with it to remove the bits. However, it flew away. But then I went into the office and saw the same bird perched on the window bars, peering in at me. Hi, I said, and went outside. But it was gone.

Sunday is washing day, and I was putting things on the line to dry. Suddenly, our little friend came down and perched on the line. Hi again! If it comes again I shall have to give it a name.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Jonty was Reikied, I saw a Black Prince

Sunday morning, things don't move too fast around here. Jonty moves very slowly, so our Sunday walk is a very leisurely affair. This morning we were in Green Bans Park, and I saw two girls peeking around the hedge, unsure of whether to approach. We are quite used to this, given Jonty's magnificence and magnetic personality, so I encouraged them. They did the usual oohing and ahhing and mentioned that he might have a touch of arthritis. No, I said, spinal problems. He had a spinal laminectomy some years ago, so we are lucky to have had him this long, really. Then one of them laid her hands on his back. Jonty seemed very happy about this, and stood soaking it up. "A bit of Reiki," she said, then flicked away the energy. They went on their way. Jonty stood still for quite a while - we were in no hurry - and then proceeded home.

On the way I saw a Black Prince on the ground, and remembered that these cicadas have a certain cachet. We get lots of Green Grocers around here, they seem to like our mango tree. The noise is enough to drive one inside some days. Summer's iridescence is audible, along with the colour of the jacarandas and the shimmering heat haze. Not today though, it is unseasonably cool.

Back to the beaded knitting: it is much easier than I thought it might be. First, transferring the beads from their strings to the crochet cotton was a breeze. So easy that I might just think about the tatted beaded bag I have lingered over in Juliea Sanders' Tatting Patterns (no picture here of the particular one..)

Second, the pattern is sooooo simple. You just slide over the required number of beads, and they make these pretty loops. I am about two-thirds of the way down the first side already. It really is fun, and quick.

Blog, you bloggers, I'm ready for you!

The world is divided into those who like their home pages to be densely populated, and those who like them clean and simple. One of the reasons for Google's success as a search engine was its clean, simple interface - especially true in the dialup days and slow download of graphics. Google has been my home page for as long as I can remember. So why have I let other stuff creep on?

I have moved to a personalised home page, and for two reasons - Google Calendar and Google Reader.

Keeping up with blogs is fun, but what was the best way of doing it? I tried Konfabulator before Yahoo acquired it. It wasn't happy on my computer, and I had to go to my desktop to look at the widgets. I am never on the desktop, I am always in my browser or email. Then I tried Thunderbird and that was fantastic, but it cluttered up my mailbox (I'm not good at deleting) and I eventually abandoned Thunderbird because it didn't have an integrated calendar. When I went back to Outlook I installed RSSPopper, but it would occasionally crash Outlook. Adding links from my own blog was OK, but I would have to visit each site to see whether anything had been added. Bloglines is OK but again, you have to think to go there.

Google Reader is like Bloglines, but you can also add it as a portlet to your personalised home page. Every time you go to your Google search, it searches all the sites you want to keep up with and allows you to read them, go to the original site, and so forth. Very neat and effective. Every time I fire up my home page, I immediately see the updates.

Google Calendar is another portlet you can add to your home page. We are beginning to use it as a shared calendar at work, and it might just prove good enough for me to be able to abandon Outlook and go back to Thunderbird again, which would mean I could just use Thunderbird to add the blog feeds. Ummm, wasn't that where I started?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tiny beads, tiny needles

Enough of the veggie knitting for now. The little beady coin purse has been calling me. I figured out how to get the tiny little black beads off their strings and onto the black crochet cotton without them going everywhere, or having to thread them one by one with a beading needle. It is a neat trick - tie a knot in the thread the little beads come on, and slip the end of the crochet thread through it before tightening. Works a treat - mostly. Always wise to do this in a big bowl to catch the escapees. I read the pattern, which is this one, and then realised I didn't have any size 1.25 mm knitting needles. A quick whizz around the web found Crochet Australia, who have a wonderful array of things, including the required terribly fine knitting needles.

An order resulted in the needles arriving within two days, plus a couple of catalogues I have just drooled over.

Lots of crochet cotton in all kinds of colours, and cotton 4-ply. Tatting shuttles (you can never have enough tatting shuttles), crochet hooks, needles, some yarn, and lots and lots of books. I think I am going to have to have a couple - especially the ones on beaded purses along the lines of the one I am doing. And the book on beaded knitting generally.

Man, those 1.25 mm needles are tiny! I am really looking forward to using them to make all kinds of little beady things.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I've blogged before about singing in the Messiah this year. There have been rehearsals, and there are four performances, 8th, 10th, 12th and 14th December, at the Sydney Opera House. There is nothing more exhilarating than singing in a big choir in such a fabulous place, and I am really looking forward to it.


The 12th and 14th I have to be in Melbourne - training for a new ARROW member at La Trobe on 11-13th, and then an introductory meeting for the PILIN project on 13th-14th (yes, I know, don't even think about that double booking on 13th).

What can I do? I know I can get back from Melbourne by 5.30 on Thursday 14th for warm up then rehearsal (at least I think so...)

But what about that Tuesday? I have agonised about this. If I miss one performance will they let me do the last one? They have been utterly draconian about not missing any rehearsals or any performances. Once you miss one, that's it. You are OUT!

So today I asked whether I could leave La Trobe a bit early, catch an early flight back to Sydney, take the train from the airport to Circular Quay and RUN to the Opera House to be there on time. Then take an early morning flight back to Melbourne.

I have permission. I will do it. What will this do to my stress levels? Is it worth it? I think so. God willing (despite my earlier post on God) the weather will be OK and the flights/trains will run on time.

I'll need to sit and knit quietly for a long time after this. My current veggie knitting is perfect - the plain black V-neck jumper is coming along. I am desperately resisting buying Silk Garden Noro to be the last person in the world to knit the Clapotis. But not for much longer.....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

M-H Memes

OK, I'm doing the linking-to-the-meme-thingy here. Yes, I am interested in the results. Knitting blogs SHOULD have a high profile. So I will now go off and do the pingy thing too.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Compost woes

Here we live in a small inner city house with a small courtyard out the back. For years I have managed a big compost bin here, but the time has come to give it up. It is work to empty it out and spread out all the lovely rich compost. Worse, it never quite fit onto the available spot for it. It is a circular bin, and the raised garden bed it lived on is just a bit too narrow. This leaves a little gap, which is a perfect snack bar for rats. We never had much of a problem with rats, but now that Portia is gone, they seem to be frolicking at will. The neighbours have problems with them too, we have had discussions over the fence and on the footpath.

So reluctantly and sadly we must downsize. The big bin has gone to my daughter, who will make good use of it. Right now we are putting everything in the garbage bin, and that really does go against the grain. So what to do instead?

We went up to the Watershed in Newtown to talk about worm farms. As a result we have enrolled in a council course one Sunday soon, which will not only tell us how to manage a worm far, we get one free! And we were also shown a Bokashi Bucket, so we will investigate that too. It looks very interesting, and is small enough to live side by side with a worm farm.

So farewell trusty big bin, and, we hope, farewell to the rats.


I sold my first bar of soap through Etsy! Thank you to my first customer, the soap has been sent and I hope you like it! I am very encouraged.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Soap on Etsy

Yes, I knit. And tat. And love my Pug. And I bead. But for more than twenty years I've also made soap. Not the melt & pour & scent to high heaven variety. Ooh no, I'm much more of a purist than that. It is made completely from scratch, from oils in various combinations and lye and some kind of liquid to dissolve the lye. Yes, it is caustic soda. If you don't use caustic soda/lye, you don't have soap, it is as simple as that.

The liquid used to dissolve this nasty stuff can be water, or you can fuss with it. I've used goat's milk, but boy, that is a hassle. It goes bright yellow when it comes into contact with the lye, and heats up very quickly and curdles if you add it too quickly. So you have to ooch it in ever so slowly. These days I more likely to use green tea or just plain water.

The oils are the interesting bit. My recipe now is about half emu oil. Forgive these measurements, but ounces are what I work in. My last batch was 83 oz emu, 40 oz olive, 20 oz coconut, 12 of grapeseed, and 5 of avocado. Yes, I make big batches. The emu oil is the key to this soap. It is fabulous stuff.

Sometimes I stick stuff into it, like ground pumice or almond meal for scrubby soaps, sometimes essential oils. But really, I like pure unscented soap. I said I was a purist.

I use it exclusively no bought soap for me! I also sell it, or give it away to special friends. I have a couple of regular customers who say that there is no going back once you start using it (thank you Helen.) Parents of children with eczema swear by it.

I had a helper for the last batch and she has been urging me to sell it on Etsy. This is a kind of ebay for ONLY hand made things and there is lots of interesting stuff there. And now the soap is there too. If you are curious you will find it here.

Will it sell? My fingers are crossed. Postage is so expensive. I will keep you posted on my success/failure. A new career?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Hawaiian knitting... well... sorta....

While others have reported on our recent Hawaiian adventure, it behooves me to discuss the craft adventure my sister and I enjoyed. Flora Dec is a fantastic store in Honolulu, an Aladdin's cave of delights. There were artificial flowers galore, and all kinds of nifty crafty things. My sister bought a couple of ribbon and yarn leis, which were just beautiful and more reasonably priced than those in the tourist traps. I bought various things, including:
  • A lei needle. This is a very long needle for stringing fresh flowers on. It was deployed on my return, using red and white bougainvillea flowers snitched from the neighbours. I wore it to an SSK meeting a couple of weeks ago.

  • Making Eyelash Crochet Leis 3 by Coryn Tanaka and May Masaki. This is a wonderful how-to book for making fuzzy and gorgeous leis, and even includes patterns for Pet Leis - collars and leads for your pets. There is a picture of a Dobermann looking less than happy wearing a neon pink fuzzy collar with matching lead, and lots of cats wearing fuzz around their necks. Hmmmm, can I see Jonty the Pug wearing something like this? No, I value the Pug's dignity more than that.

  • Some eyelash yarn. Two balls of dark red Idena Happy Yarn, to be precise. Yes, I plan to make one of these things. To wear? Maybe. I don't value my own dignity quite as highly as I do Jonty's.

  • Making Ribbon Leis 1 and 2 , also by Coryn Tanaka and May Masaki. I gave the first to a friend who enjoys a huge range of craft, flitting from one to the next, and have plans for some of the others.

  • Artifical leis only go so far. Sometimes you want real flower ones, and with frangipanni season coming up the streets are laden with blossoms. So how could I resist Hawaiian Lei Making by Laurie Shimizue Ide? I couldn't.
Now you'd think that would be enough, wouldn't you? Of course it was. But lurking on the shelves at home I already had:
  • Hawaiian Seed Lei Making, also by Laurie Shimizue Ide. Most of these projects involve using a drill. As I don't have a drill, and have even less dexterity, I am unlikely to put any of this into practice, lovely as they are. I have my trusty old black kukui nut lei, which I do wear from time to time, so probably don't need any more.

  • In case you think I am a lei-fanatic, I also have
  • Poakalani Hawaiian Quilt Cushion Patterns and Designs Vol. 2, (I can't find a link to Vol 2, so Vol 4 will give you the idea.) But alas, I am not a quilter at all, and despite having had this book for several years, have made nothing from it.
So what do you think? Will I ever choose a project from one of these books, or will I just look? Will Jonty get his very own lei and wear it with pride? Ages ago I found this photo, and while it isn't Jonty, it does stay with the Hawaiian theme, does it not?

That pug does NOT look happy, and I really don't hold with people who dress up their small pets. I think Jonty is safe.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Handel versus Mencken

Having been totally bitten by the singing bug, I am singing in The Messiah this year. Rehearsals have begun. The music is glorious and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I was talking about it with a friend over lunch yesterday, and we began our discussion of religion generally. Being of an atheistic/humanist tendency and with a positive aversion to organised religion, I find it odd to be lustily singing phrases such as: "The Lord gave the Word, great was the company of the preachers," or "Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth".

Handel might have gotten the music right, but I reckon H.L. Mencken, the Sage of Baltimore, got the words right, and here they are:

Mencken's Creed

* I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

* I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.

* I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...

*I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

* I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...

* I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

* I believe in the reality of progress.

* I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

How many beds does one Pug need?

Answer: A minimum of four. Yes, one elderly Pug requires a bed in pretty much every room in the house. Pugs are generally very companiable - at least Benny was and so is Jonty. Where you are is where they are. We live in a long narrow terrace house, so there is movement up and down the house. Jonty goes too.

1. His bed of preference seems to be the one in the office. It is half of his big crate, with an old woolly car seat cover as the base, plus an old cushion and a Pet Futon to act as side bumpers. He loves this bed, hops in as soon as we sit at the computer, and is fast asleep in seconds. He is quick to get in, and slow to get out.

2. There are two beds in the lounge room. One is a woolly flat thing with a foam base. This used to be one of Portia's favourites too, and when there were sunbeams sometimes the two would share it. This is an old photo, while Portia was still with us, showing proof that sharing was possible. This was not a case of camaraderie but of sufferance. Usually Portia would eventually creak away if Jonty came too close. These days there is also a pillow on it - he does like to lean against things.

3. The bigger bed in the lounge is harder for him to get onto, but he does love it. It is big and poufy, and gets covered with Pug fur. He mostly sleeps on that one at night.

4. The other half of the dog crate lives in the front bedroom, where the piano is. So when I'm practicing singing or just playing for fun, he has somewhere to be. It is, of course, well padded.

Sometimes, of course, his own multiple beds are not where they should be. From reading Pug lists (Ozpugs and SydneyPugs) we know we are not alone in having to share the bathroom with The Pug. While showering he loves to lie on a bathrobe on the floor. He can't be kept out, he just has to be there with you. And sometimes he likes to lie on the sofa, especially when someone is lying there reading or "watching" the cricket.

Speaking of pugs watching television, there are some hilarious pug videos on YouTube. The one that made me laugh most was this one. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

First Coogee swim of the season

Waikiki for me means swimming EVERY day. Usually snorkelling on the reef just off Fort de Russy. The reef is a bit sandy these days, having had a lot of NSW sand imported so the tourists have something to lie on. There is coral, and the fish are wonderful. Each swim includes old friends (fish don't move very far from their little spots) and some new ones. There are moray eels to be seen, and brightly coloured reef fish. The water is warm, around 26 C, so there is no shock in getting in.

Since getting home I've been hankering for more. One swim (laps) in the pool at Victoria Park didn't quite cut it. Every day I look wistfully at the sky, hoping for hot sunny weather. Today I couldn't resist. On with the togs, off to Coogee. Now Coogee is a very popular city beach, and parking is often a problem. I tried the little close parking area. No luck. Then the bigger further parking area. No luck. So up the street, and someone pulled out in a truly great spot, right on the beach, with no meter. My parking karma rarely fails me.

The water is much cooler at 19 C. There was a bit of a shock getting in. Coogee water temperature is a patchwork - you can be swimming through quite cold water, then suddenly you are in a warm patch. There are rocks at the northern end of the beach, where there is a lot of sea life. The flora was looking spectacularly lush today, with lots of kelp in bright gold and brown, some lilac coloured fronds of some other kind of weed, some neon blue flecks of smaller growths on the rocks. And quite a few fish around. Sometimes I see little groups of squid looking up at me, but not today. No blue groper today either. But lots of other fish. I am in heaven when I am snorkelling.

There was no surf to speak of, so there was no body surfing. Alas the sun disappeared behind cloud, the wind came up a bit, so I headed home. No doubt there will be more swims to come.

Friday, November 17, 2006

And then we went to Hawaii

We celebrated Michael's birthday in real style, as you can see from Julie's blog, and Michael's blog. It seems overkill to add too many more photos when you can see them there, but I've just added one to prove I was there. It was wonderful, of course, as it always is. Snorkelling every day, watching sunsets, an earthquake, it was all fantastic.

Since I've been back I've been to Melbourne for two days, and Canberra for one. There is one more trip to Melbourne coming up. Life will be very busy for us in the ARROW project since DEST announced that the RQF was going ahead. Digital repositories are key in how universities will manage these processes, so we are front and centre.

With all that travel, I just wanted to share with you all one great travel tip - bulldog clips. I travel with about three of them, and ever since I have packed them I've used them. They are great for clipping a towel around you. Or clipping curtains together when they don't quite meet. When I stay in Clayton, Melbourne, the curtains there are very flimsy and the lights outside very bright, so the bulldog clips are always deployed to clip my big navy blue wool shawl to the curtains to cut some of the light. Very handy.

Have I been knitting? You betcha. Years ago I did a cardigan in Rowan white cotton glace, and had about three balls left over. Too expensive to ditch, but what do you do with three balls? Well, the baby boom in Newtown/Erskineville means that there is demand for knitted baby things. Our neighbours, Pan and Ann (yes, you've got that right) are expecting next month, so I have done a pram blanket which is almost finished. A moss stitch border, and flying birds stitch. Quite cute, really.

Then I must get back to my black V-neck jumper, the beaded purse from the PurseLady, and the purple lace socks.

As Julie says, we all like sheep... and alpacas.... (Sorry Handel).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

We've been to Japan

And of course, brought back a snowdome. This is from the top of Nagoya Castle. I climbed the stairs to the top and this was my reward! We always keep a travel diary when we go away, so I thought I would go back in time and post some of it in sequence. Naturally, there are plenty of pictures of manhole covers too. Michael has done a fanastic job of describing our adventures, so look here first. I'll be back with my perspective (including the manhole covers) later.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Potatoes on the way

Julie gave me instructions on building a potato tower, so today I did it She 'seeded' me with three potatoes - a kipfler, a King Edward, and a Nicola. The tower is really a hessian bag, and it is supported with a circlet of chicken wire. Let's hope they do their stuff!

Today is the first time I have used the Blog This button on Picasa, having downloaded the pics from our new Canon digital camera to the laptop. Also for the first time we have viewed photos from the camera on our TV. Wowee.

On Monday night we are going to Japan for a week, and I have been deliberating hard about what camera(s) to take. The small digital? Portable, for sure. The video camera? Also portable. But no, the purist in me has ruled for the Canon EOS Elan 7e SLR, with both lenses, the remoter, the tripod, and five rolls of slide film. The camera shop man looked at me as though I was from the Dark Ages when I asked for slide film, and recommended a digital SLR as my next purchase. No, I love my EOS (it is my second) and we LOVE slide nights. Maybe one day.

This weekend we were surrounded by babies. On Saturday we celebrated Rosie Wendy Steeden-Beach's Australia naming ceremony, and we were surrounded by babies. Rose was a dab hand at turning her head away from the camera as soon as it was pointed in her direction.

Then later on Saturday we celebrated our neighbour's finished renovations. More babies, ranks of prams, wall to wall plastic toys. It makes us happy to see all these future taxpayers coming up the ranks!

Pics from Japan will be uploaded as they become available in the coming weeks. Digitals quicky, but the slides will take a little longer.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Technomoment 2

An age ago I blogged about setting up our "home entertainment" centre. (Really, the Pug provides as much entertainment as one needs.) Well I have to confess that I didn't entirely succeed. Yes, the set top box worked with the television. Yes, the DVD/VCR worked with the television. Yes, they both worked with the hi-fi system. But the set top box would not work through the DVD/VCR, and that precluded recording anything off digital television, and necessitated lots of button pressing to switch between the two. Months went by. Confidence failed. Finally, we called in an expert. Hmmm, he said, after fiddling with all the same buttons and cables I had done. He pronounced the set top box faulty. (On later reflection I don't really think it was, I think it needed a different setup and more cables.)

Sigh. We took it back to the long-suffering Harvey Norman where we had bought it, and showed them the receipt and diagnosis from the expert. They replaced it.

We took it home, and I set about connecting it all up once more. I had some brainwaves that resulted in an emergency dash for another s-video cable. It all seemed to work ... except that now we couldn't watch any videotapes (DVDs just fine.) Another component cable was plugged in. Does everyone else have a cable stash as well as a yarn stash?

Finally, everything was hunky dory, it all works. Most of the time. Sometimes the set top box decides to get stuck, so it has to be re-booted.

But Sunday night came a crisis. Searching for something to watch I plumped for Quark. Quark is one of my very favourite ancient TV series, and Julie can attest to that. She finally found me (on ebay) tapes of all the episodes. I shoved one in, the picture appeared, but NO SOUND! Oh my god! What have I done now?? Too shocked (and too late at night) to try any cable wiggling, I substituted a cooking program on DVD. That was fine.

A day later, feeling stronger, I put Quark back in. Same thing. Tried another video... sound was just fine. Oh NO! It must be my Quark tapes! An emergency read of the manual led me to try manual tracking. Found the buttons, pressed them, and lo and behold everything was fine. The picture improved, the sound was heard. PHEW! Quark defeated Zorgon the Malevolent, Ficus the Vegeton was delivered from the clutches of Zorgon's daughter Libido, and the rest of the team went back to being galactic garbage collectors.

Now by coincidence, on Thursday and Friday last week I attended a two-day seminar on (wait for it) preservation metadata in building trusted digital repositories. Fascinating. But this close call means I now know that preservation of my Quark episodes is extremely important and that I must quickly transfer those precious tapes to a digital format and entrust them to some trusted repository out there somewhere.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Project pipeline

I am told that it is good to have many projects on the go. A small portable one for public transport, a veggie-knitting one in stockinette for watching TV, and a highly complex one to keep you interested.

Right now, I only have two projects going. The first is the veggie-knitting black jumper, and I have finished the back. The second is slightly more complex. I had three and a half balls of white Rowan Cotton Glace left over from a cardigan I did years ago. Expensive stuff, and I couldn't waste it. It is now being knitted up into a baby pram blanket, with a moss stitch border and a middle of the "Little Birds" stitch from the Harmony Book of Knitting Stitches. Pictures will be posted when I have made further progress.

I finished Tam 2, and that was fun and very successful. When I get it off my mother's head I will post a pic of it (and when the digital camera is repaired.)

But what's in the pipeline? Always a question for us knitters.
  1. I have two balls of purple Elann sock wool, and am contemplating the sock pattern I want to use. Toe-up, I think, as I haven't done that before.
  2. Then there are the five different colours of Bambi which will go into a new tam for my cleaning lady's daughter.
  3. And for variety I have a kit for a beaded purse, small black beads, from PurseParadise. I'll post a picture later from home. (I'm doing this at work, where Content Keeper keeps me from all the good knitting and crafty websites)
  4. And just the other day I couldn't resist buying Knitting Out of Africa, (hope that link works) and am going to have to decide which one of those glorious creations will be mine.
Is that enough? Even as I write I am thinking about the daffodil tea cosy that I really do need.

Friday, August 11, 2006


On Thursday morning at 9.00 I was, as usual, sitting in my home office having my weekly team meeting. This is done by phone, and I have my speakerphone on with the team in Melbourne on the other end. My mobile rang a couple of times, but I let that go through to voicemail. Suddenly, the phone rang. Not the land line, not the mobile, but Skype through my PC. I saw it was someone from our software developer in the US calling. "Hey guys" I said, "Heather is calling. I'll just answer her." I did so, and for the next half hour our meeting continued with all of us - Heather from the US on Skype, three from Melbourne on the land line, and me from Sydney. Everyone could hear well, the meeting was fruitful. Ain't technology grand? (When it works....)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Jumper, sock sock, TamOne, sock sock - the rhythm goes on

I've been quietly knitting away here, and it is time to show progress. First, the black jumper. See how nicely the pug fur displays? I tried a few different things with this jumper. This is the back, and the ribbing is done with a slip stitch (technique on a piece of yellowing newsprint ripped from a Daily Telegraph circa 1965) which results in a kind of casing through which you can slip elastic, should you desire. Quite easy, quite successful. What was not successful was my practicing of continental knitting. The knit side is easy, I can do that. But the purl side resulted in a very visible line of stitching. I must have been somehow reversing the stitch so it looked like knit, not purl. This I did not discover until well beyond the armhole decrease, so there was some frogging and re-knitting. I will practice on something smaller next time - even a SWATCH! This jumper was going to have a cowl neck but I have changed my mind and it will be a Vee neck. It may still have a lace border on the sleeves, and may even include a frosting of beads. Fun to imagine.

Naturally, you cannot knit a jumper all the time. You have to have mini-projects going. I've blogged before about the Arrow pattern I found in Charlene Schurch's book, so here they are. Yes, I have finished them both, and adore them, wear them all the time. The yarn is Lorna's Laces, which Julie gave me. See how nicely the pug fur goes with them?

Moving right along, a friend lent me her book on Knitted Tams, by Mary Rowe. Looks like just the thing, I thought. I had a ball of black Patonyle which was going to be socks for Michael. I had some leftover Lorna's laces. I now have a tam which matches the Arrow Socks! (Although the colour in the photos makes them look different - the tam shows the closest match to the real colour). Highly successful, and I am now working on my next tam. My mother liked it so much she wants one. My cleaning lady liked it so much she has commissioned one for her daughter - the wool has been purchased. Stay tuned for those two.

The same friend who lent me the tam book also gave me a ball of Jigsaw self-patterning wool. She also gave me a pattern which called for casting on 60 stitches. I thought 72 was more my size, so that's what I did. Just a basic sock, in plain knitting, but it was fascinating to see the pattern develop. Should I try really really hard to ensure that they are a real pair, and try to start knitting at the same colour change in the wool? Nah, let's just go for it. To my enormous surprise, they turned out pretty much EXACTLY the same! Here they are:

Now I have three pairs of hand knitted socks for me, only four more to go before I have a week's worth.

On the rhythm side of things, Julie and I went to the first lesson of our singing course last night. What fun! Some could read music, others had no idea, but at the end of it the class sang four-part harmony. We enjoyed it tremendously. At the tea break I spoke to one of the participants. "You look very much like ...." I said. "I am", she said. She was someone who worked at Fisher Library, University of Sydney, with me in 1971. I haven't seen her since. Yikes! Fancy recognising her!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Farewell Portia

Yesterday was a sad day. Finally, reluctantly, I took our old cat Portia to the vet for the last time. We’ve been talking about when would be the right time for so long. Her poor little nose was being eaten away with cancer, she sneezed and sniffed all day. She could barely walk, falling amost every step. She was at least 18. But still she ate heartily, as always. Still she purred.

There have been tears, but I know it was the right thing to do. The end was peaceful. I want to share some of the highs and lows of her life.

She came into our lives as a ragged 18 month old in about 1990. She was escaping from a house of druggies two doors down, had already had one litter, and another was on the way. A little grey tabby with delicate features, a white collar of fur and beige eyeliner. Surely some Siamese in there, from her triangular head, slanted eyes, and very vocal ways. I was home briefly, preparing to go to Utah where my husband was. The housesitter ( a cat person), my daughter (a soon-to-be cat person) and I (a dog person) were sitting outside in the courtyard when she appeared. She was welcomed, and I found myself combing out her matted fur with a flea comb. She seemed very pleased about that.

On our return from the sojourn in Utah, Portia had been named, and de-sexed, the impending litter dealt with. She was ensconced. Julie was delighted, and the two of them bonded. Portia would turn to liquid in Julie’s arms, they would sleep together, Portia upside down and flowing off the bed in delight.

She was a great hunter. One of her triumphs was the night I came home to find her tossing a HUGE male rat over her shoulder (outside, thank God). The rat was dead, Portia looked smug. I waited till Julie got home, we quivered and shook and carried on until I managed to prod the rat corpse onto newspaper, into a plastic bag, and into the bin. She was a birder, and often the back yard was filled with feathers. She and a series of currawongs had a working relationship. Portia would catch the mice and eat the heads, the currawong would perch patiently on the back of a garden chair, retrieving the bodies when she was done.

During our renovations all those years ago Portia loved to explore. She went underneath the house exploring and we were worried she would be immured, but she was always OK. One day she was gone for a while, and when she returned from under the house she was veiled, like Miss Havisham, in grey cobwebs.

Things weren’t always rosy for her, of course. The worst times, twice, was when she was tortured. We don’t know who did it. The first time she came home late with razor slashes down her tummy. Not too bad, not enough for the vet, but bad enough. The next time was far worse, and occasioned a trip to the vet and lots of treatment. After the vet visit she disappeared for what seemed like forever. Finally, late at night, I suddenly heard her bell far in the distance. She tottered home, we burst into tears. We thought she was dead. She recovered, to live another day.

She was the most affectionate cat, and never got as much attention as she wanted. The vets never heard her heart beat – even on a steel table she enjoyed the attention and purred loudly.

Early in her life she must have damaged her tail, and later in life it started to deteriorate. We took her to the vet, who attempted to judge where the tail’s feeling started and stopped by using scissors. This attempt failed when the scissoring reached up behind her ears and she was still purring. The tail was shortened and this was highly successful.

She loved being bonked on the head – a large knitting needle, the flea comb, a biro, she loved it.

Julie left home, Portia stayed. She outlived Benny, the Previous Pug, and filled that gap single handedly for a year before we got Jonty. The two of them got on, but there was some jostling for the best bed in the sunbeams. The two of them were ace lobbyists. I think their dinnertime is 4 pm. They think it is lunchtime, and by 3 pm the chorus rises in intensity.

We thought she would live forever, but in recent months was getting frailer and frailer. She still liked her afters (snacks of leftovers after dinner) so we introduced room service for her.

When is the right time to say goodbye? Even at the vet I asked whether I should/could just take her home again. No, said the vet. This is the time. Her body is breaking down, life is a struggle for her.

So there have been tears today for an elderly cat, from this dog-person. She will be missed.

Friday, June 23, 2006

You can't have too many black pants

I can be quite an organised person, really. Some time ago I decided to be systematic about those reward points you get from Visa and Amex. Instead of wasting them, letting them expire, forgetting about them, I started to trade them in on David Jones vouchers. I set my cap at sheets. Every time I charged something to a card, I thought about trading those points for really expensive sheets - sheets I wouldn't have paid 'real' money for. Eventually I had enough. I used some points for some fabulously fluffy deep rich flanellette sheets. (BTW - never wear flannellette pyjamas with flannellette sheets. There is a velcro effect that prevents any movement at all.) Then I moved on to the wonderful Frette pure white horrendously expensive sheets. Like flying business class, once you have done it, you can never go back. Sheets are like that. Once you have Frettes, you can never sleep on anything less. So again, a couple of years amassing points led to the purchase of another set.

Now we have enough sheets. (I know, some readers will wonder how that might be possible. I know at least one reader has a sheet fetish...).

Somehow, I keep spending enough on my credit cards to accumulate points. I should trade them in for Harvey Norman vouchers, seeing as how we spend enough on electronic gizmos but I am a creature of habit, and for some time now I have had two David Jones gift vouchers burning a hole in my purse. (Where is purse asbestos when we need it?)

Today I walked to town. Yes, I've been feeling I needed some exercise, and town is about an hour's walk. OK, I had lunch with a friend that immediately replaced all the calories used on the walk, but that's a different story. I knew I had a mission. After lunch I went to DJs to spend those vouchers. First, a replacement Lancome lippy. My favourite is almost gone. Did I know if I spent more than a certain amount I would get a free gift? Hell, it was all free - this was POINTS after all! So I bought the lip balm as well, which qualified me for the free gift of FOUR more Lancome things. And STILL they make a profit!!!

What else do I need? Black pants. If I'm honest, the whole trip was to justify the purchase of another pair of black pants. Why? How many pairs do I already have?

Well. There is the one true pair, the pair that I wear almost every day. The Ignazia pair. I used to have two pairs, until I fell one day and ripped a hole in the knee. I had two pairs because I wasn't sure the dry cleaner was going to have Pair 1 back before I went overseas, and I couldn't imagine going overseas without them so bought another. The pants that have the matching jacket. I've had two of those jackets because I left the first one overseas (the same trip..) and had to buy another on my return.

Then there is the wonderful summer pair. The Yoshi Jones thai silk wide leg ones that are cool and swishy. I have a jacket and skirt in the same fabric. My husband bought the fabric in Thailand, my mother made the jacket and skirt. The pants just happen to match and be perfect.

Don't forget the Nitya pair of summer black pants. These are cigar slim, two layers of very light chiffony fabric that feel and look terrific. I've had those for some years and love them.

And then there are the Hedrena black wool pants. I love Hedrena. As well as the black pants I have a long black cardie, and three of the same top with a kind of mandarin neck in light blue, maroon, and (you guessed it) black. Love those pants. When we sang in the Big Sing, my daughter (who doesn't wear black) needed a pair of black pants to wear. Do you have any, Mummy? Umm, yes. These would be best. Oooh, she said, after wearing them on the day. These ARE comfortable. I haven't got them back yet.

Ah, the Mondi (what is it about fashion and these silly Flash websites that want to play music and be atmospheric) black wool pants. They were from a pre-loved shop in Chatswood. Always a bit big and baggy. The zip has a habit of opening on its own, so long tops were obligatory.

Yes. I really need another pair of black pants. I have the vouchers. I try Perri Cutten at DJs. Pair 1: Is this foolish after a big lunch with tummy pooching out? Pair 2: too casual, not quite right. Pair 3: PERFECT! The right fit, the right amount of stretch. Even the right length. Thank you Perri! Thank you Points! I hand over the voucher and only have to pay another $12. What a bargain.

They come home, and one pair has to go. One comes in, one goes out. Which pair will go? In my heart I have already decided. Even though the Ignazias are shiny and thin around the knees, the Mondi pair have to go. It is hard. A good pair of black pants is a friend for a long time. Be strong! Farewell faithful Mondis. Welcome faithful Perris. I hope the Hedrenas come back some time.

And I didn't even mention the black trackies....................

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

waddayamean, too busy to blog???

I know, I know, there are no excuses. I haven't blogged because I'm too lazy, not because I'm too busy. But I haven't been too busy to knit. Oh no, not at all. I finished the Arrow socks, and love the way they turned out. The Arrow pattern was chosen from Charlene Schurch's book because that's the name of the project I work on. Digital repositories...socks... now there's a combination. I was delighted with the way the pattern worked with the yarn. Lorna's Laces, a Christmas present from my daughter. Sometimes those variegated yarns can come up with odd looking outcomes, but these worked really well. I just love wearing the socks with a) a dark red jumper I knitted a few years ago, and b) a black velvet Chinese jacket with hot pink embroidered cuffs and lining. The pink and red goes perfectly. Why haven't I worn lairy socks before, I wonder? Anyway, here is one of the socks. If you look closely you will see the obligatory and unavoidable Pug Fur.

Can you see the way the arrow pattern points down towards the toe?
Very successful.

So what's next on the needles. Much umming. Much pawing through the Harmony Complete Guide to Knitting Stitches. Something different, something exciting. How about a black jumper? Those who know me know I favour black, it looks so charming when covered with a fine patina of Pug Fur. Perhaps a pattern? I go back to my old Paton's Classic Cardigans and Jumpers (for some reason I have two copies, so it must be good.) The blue cardigan I knitted from this pattern years ago is still worn with monotonous regularity. It fits. It must be a good basis. Thinks. Hmmm. How about a nice purl/plain pattern for interesting texture. I choose one. I experiment. Daughter advises that the pattern will be lost in the black, and am I really going to invest all that effort in 'an interesting play of light'. "You know," she says, "that you would only be doing the pattern for yourself." Yes dear. More experimentation. I also experiment with a hem pattern I ripped out of the Daily Telegraph some years ago. OK, more than 20 years ago, most likely.

I knit the hem pattern and it does what it says it will do. It forms a kind of double hem with a casing through which one might, if one wished, put elastic. I won't do that, but the hem looks great. I continue with the pattern experimentation, but a miscounting of the number of cast-on stitches ensures that I will knit this one plain. No pattern. It seems years since I knitted plain stockinette, and it goes like the wind. Patons Bluebell 5 ply on the lovely Boyes needles, and I am whipping along at a great rate. It is going to be good. I think it will be a cowl neck, and I know how I will do that. I am contemplating a lacy sleeve hem. It is so enjoyable to contemplate the complex whilst zipping along with perfectly plain knitting. Here it is on the floor in a photo which doesn't do it justice, but proves that I am still here and still knitting.

Those of you who also read Julie's stuff will know that we briefly attended the Worldwide Knitting in Public Day at the Opera House recently. You'll see some photos at links from her site so I won't repeat them here. Why only briefly? Because we had an absolutely wonderful weekend not knitting, but singing in the Big Sing. Yes, we were choristers in the Mozart Requiem, and it was a wonderful experience. Along with about 90% of the other 1099 singers, I had never sung this before. Indeed, it has been years since I sang anything in public. What a buzz it was. We are now looking for new outlets for our singing. Yes, we do sing in tune, we think.

So there you go. Life goes on in the world of KnitTatPug. Stay tuned for updates on the boring black jumper. And be warned that if you get too close there are still hums going on from the Requiem. If I suddenly burst out singing "ne absorbeat eas tartarus ne cardant in obscurum" it is just an obscure line... hum hum hum....

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Let the child be born

I finished the jacket/cardiagn, so the child may now be born. She's due late this month, and might ever arrive on my birthday.

This might be the first time I've ever knitted something for a baby that has been finished before the baby arrived. My record might be a crocheted rug for baby Jonathan, that ended up being for his baby brother two years later. But this little jacket was fun to knit, and quite quick. I've knitted it before so didn't have too much trouble with the pattern.

There were days when I did nothing much BUT knit, which are good days indeed.

Although I'm always ready for a visit to the button shop, I thought I'd check my own button jar and that of my mother. There were five little pearl buttons in my mother's stash, and they look just perfect. There is a little wool left over which might become bootees. I made an attempt on those at SSK on Saturday, but somewhere went wrong and had to rip up. Sigh!

So I hope the mother-to-be likes what I've done, but she has to wait until the birth before the presentation occurs. Charlotte/Rosie will be warm this winter or next, depending on size.

Now, where is that sock wool? I've got plans to knit ARROW socks - that's the name of the pattern and that's who I work for! (Sorry, the link is to the worksite, not the pattern) A marriage made in heaven...

Next time I'll tell you all about what deflected me from knitting them yesterday. Not a pretty story, and more to do with entertainment tech.