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).