Friday, July 30, 2010

Last full day, one more sleep

There really hasn't been anything to report, other than the regular swim among the usual suspects, snoozing, reading, and eating. The usual suspects include triggerfish, eels, parrotfish, moorish idols, and a largeish squid who hangs out most of the time under the furthest buoy. Occasional visitors are the turtles. And once I saw an exquisite fish I have been unable to identify, with long long feathery fins.

There was one exciting shopping experience. Nine days ago I bought a pair of red shoes at Nordstrom, and I liked them so much I bought a black pair as well. Except they weren't in stock. Would I like them shipped to me at the apartment? Yes, I would, provided they arrive in time. No problem, they said - five to eight days by UPS. OK, I said. They sent me an email giving me the UPS tracking number, and this has been more exciting than most of the television. I log in to find that the shoes left Baltimore, they arrived in Vernon, California, they left there and arrived at Ontario, California. Days later (maybe they liked California) they leave for Honolulu. They arrive in Honolulu, but not in my hands yet. This is my last day here - we leave early tomorrow morning!! It is 3 pm. I call Nordstrom. Nordstrom call UPS who assure me that they will arrive. The front desk calls, and they have finally arrived, at the eleventh hour. Phew!

What of all the great plans for knitting? I had one ball of sock wool, (black Patonyle) and a sock pattern. Some tatting for the aeroplane. Some lovely baby alpaca lace yarn (thank you Lien!) which I planned to turn into the Leaf and Nupp Shawl from Nancy Bush's Knitted Lace of Estonia. I have the needles (from my trip to Isle Knits) and the yarn I ordered from Stitch Diva arrived (silk, Galactic Blue), plus the pattern for the Endless Cardi-Shawl. Quite a list, huh?

How did I go? Not too badly. I finished the sock. I wanted some black socks, and thought if I knitted them in a lacy pattern they wouldn't get nicked by someone who thinks all black socks are his. Never have I been so cavalier about a pattern. In the words of my daughter, 'it is just a sock', so I spurned the instructions on how many stitches needed to be on each needle (I like twin circulars for socks) and did what suited me. The Great Sock Maker (Julie) also talks about making a longer heel flap, so I tried a few extras to see how that worked. (Beautifully). I have wide feet, so didn't decrease back to the original 66 stitches, preferring 72 for the foot. The sock turned out really well. I made it quite long, not expecting to have enough yarn to finish it, but there was JUST enough. And I did the kitchener grafting from memory with no problem.

From Hawaii2010

There is a cardigan on the needles at home (too bulky to bring with me), so while I was sorely tempted to cast on the nearly 500 stitches for the Endless Cardi-Shawl, I forebore, confining my lust for the yarn to winding one skein into a ball. Step away from the yarn now... you have to finish a couple of projects first... Ooh that is hard. Sometimes I have to be very stern with myself.

The lace shawl became a saga, and I have learned a LOT. I did the border with a lot of difficulty. The lessons I have learned are:

1. I was using my Boye needles, and the joins made it very difficult to slide the very fine stitches. Isle Knits came to the rescue with a very nice Addi Turbo Lace circular needle. MUCH better.

2. I can read knitting charts OK, especially with the lovely magnetic board that Lien gave me for Christmas. Yes, I brought that with me. It helps enormously. However, it also helps enormously to know that when knitting in the round you read the chart from right to left, every row. BUT when knitting back and forth, you read the chart back and forth!!!! This realisation made a huge difference to the accuracy of my knitting, and reduced the frustration enormously. I feel embarrassed at confessing this. It involved ripping out the entire 25 rows of border and re-knitting them. Yes, Julie, I did. It was worth it.

3. When knitting pattern repeats it helps to have markers. I'd bought some nice little markers at Morris & Sons a while ago, and I thought I would give them a go. The wonderful thing is that you can see immediately whether you have made a mistake (like missed a yarnover) and fix it without any hassle. Lace is very difficult to unpick. I know. Markers are a great leap forward for me.

So, after learning these lessons, and doing the border again, I am much more confident now about continuing.

From Hawaii2010

Seeing as how we are now thinking homeward thoughts, our housesitter and I have been exchanging confirmation emails of return times, and status reports about The Pug. He's been having a great time going out with Iain the dog walker every day, plus playdates with housesitter's Mum's dog Emma. He's just fine, and here's the proof..

From Hawaii2010

Yes, I am looking forward to seeing him soon. I'm also looking forward to seeing my Mum. I am not, however, looking forward to rugging up in lots of clothes, and not having my daily swim.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday

Yes, yes, I know. I am falling behind on the daily schedule, sliding further into sloth and torpor, into Hawaiian time. The days begin to merge into a slow blur of eat, shop, sleep, swim. Pretty good, huh?

Julie and Martin left on Thursday, leaving their excess food with us. We scored the most excellent cherry vanilla icecream (mmmmm), blue corn chips, cheese, eggs, bacon, limonata, and much more.

Every time I go for a swim I see the man from Parrot-dise with his collection of colourful parrots, taking over-the-top tourist pictures. Today was the day, so I took Michael down to show him, and to get some info. The man took our photos with our camera, and here is one of them:

From Hawaii2010

OTT? Absolutely. As we returned to the apartment we were notified that my parcel had arrived from Earl & Lois Stokes. My string figure kit!
From Hawaii2010

The rainbow strings are fused together by melting the ends:
From Hawaii2010

I spent a happy few hours reading the booklets and the philosophy associated with this art, and playing with the strings. I can do the turtle now - quite an easy figure, and the bracelet.

From Hawaii2010

The turtle is appropriate, because for the first time in my visits here, and all those hours snorkelling, I have seen turtles at Ft. de Russy beach. One large one on Sunday, and a small one today. Such a thrill.

My bin diving career has expanded. As I lie on the grass or on the sand I see men diving into the bins to retrieve anything that has a deposit on it - cans and bottles. The deposit is 5cents. Instead of putting all our returnables into the dumpster in our building, which is secure, we are now taking them to the public bins and making them available to the people who can use them. I put a whole lot into one bin, and had a conversation with a man who was retrieving them. He didn't want to take the Pellegrino bottle, saying that wine bottles were not accepted. I said this was a water bottle, not wine. I pointed to the return label with the HI (for Hawaii) on it. He seemed convinced. There isn't much recycling that I can see, apart from this. There is a bin for plastic bags outside the Safeway store, and I do see that being used.

On Friday we did what we should have done earlier - visited Waikele Premium Outlets. The variety was terrific, and the prices sensational.

After a reconnoitre and a slow start, we warmed up. Michael did particularly well at Brooks Bros with the two-for-the-price-of-one deals. Two suits, two sweaters. Also from Saks 5th Ave a pair of leather slides, for which he has been searching for some time.

I did well too. Two tank tops and a purple jumper from Anne Klein (less than $20 each, and nothing in black!). Three t-shirts from Bass (two blue, one red, no black.) To redeem myself I bought a black shirt from Brooks Bros. Perfect. I was tempted by some shoes, but I have enough shoes. Enough? Yes, enough.

Today is Saturday, and despite the food infusions from the departing daughter, we were out of vegetables and other necessaries. Michael was having Saturday morning shopping spasms, so off we went to Safeway again. W got out with relatively little damage - fruit, veg, meat, fish. Returned for the final of the Tour de France, some serious snoozing, then a swim for me. Swimming a fairly deep section I saw that what looked like a rock or large piece of coral had flippers. A turtle, below me.

I have booked to go on a catamaran snorkelling trip tomorrow morning at 8 am. I am so looking forward to it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wednesday: Shopping at Ala Moana

Alas, it was a no-swim day. It was a no-pics day too. It was a shopping day. We had several things on our list of must-see at Ala Moana Mall.

First stop was Long's Drugstore, for some good aeroplane earplugs. Done.

Next stop for me was Sephora. I am after some Lancome lippy, 08 Rose, having scraped out the very last of the last tube. Also some cream blusher. No luck with the lippy, but did OK with the blusher. Perhaps it is a bit too light, and maybe I need the next darker shade. I'll think about that. Some dark red nail polish (for toes) leapt into my basket too.

Shanghai Tang is always worth looking at. I love the styles, but somehow never manage to find anything that suits me, or that fits right, or that I can afford. I did sample the perfume though, and being in a ginger phase, it appealed to me. Maybe I'll have to go back for some of that, despite being in an "I will use up all the perfume I have before buying any more" mode. For a long time I have not worn perfume, finding it unsuitable for work, prohibited by choir, and just not appealing. Maybe it is time to revisit that.

We reviewed the Walking Shoe company for slides for Michael, without success.

Then we went to Nordstrom, our favourite store. Even better, Nordstrom is having its anniversary sale. About two years ago for Michael's birthday I bought him an up-market track suit designed by Hugo Boss. These are the ultimate soft clothes. He lives in fear and trepidation of its wearing out, and we have tried everywhere to find another. No luck. I asked Dennis, the shop assistant in Nordstrom, for advice. Men can't ask for advice, so they probably miss a lot if they don't take their wives with them. We found a good pair of soft pants. I left him to look around a bit longer, and went in search of shoes. Despite being unable to try shoes on effectively (I'd banged my little to on the door jamb and it is bruised and hurts) I managed to find a pair I liked. I liked them so much I bought a red and a black pair of the same style. The red will match my new nailpolish!

Michael found me in the shoe department and told me he'd found a new suit at a great price. He was going to go to the fitting section and organise the tailoring Nordstrom does so well. I was free to continue my hunt in the clothing section, and was very happy to find two very nice tops.

After emerging with bulging shopping bags and empty wallets, we had a lazy afternoon.

We'd organised to have dinner out with Julie and Martin at Chilli's just behind the International Market. Off we went. Virgin Margaritas are pretty darned good, not so sickly sweet as the Pina Coladas. Being off the grog doesn't mean you can't have frou frou cocktails! Deep fried onion strips are pretty good too!

Michael and I walked home through the International Market, but were not tempted by anything. Too much tat!

Tuesday - a three-swim day

Everyone else went to the Pacific Aviation Museum but me, and I will let them tell their stories in their respective blogs (Julie and Michael).

For me, it was a beach day. As the days go by I wear less. Where once I would put on togs, a sarong, shoes, a towel over my shoulder and a hat, I now put on togs and carry the towel. No shoes, no sarong. For today's expedition I did take the straw mat for lying on, and my specs and sunnies, and my book. The Leopard is my choice of reading for Waikiki. It is so perfectly languid and reflective. I'm enjoying my reacquaintance with Don Fabrizio, House of Salina, Maria Stella, Tancredi, Concetta and Angelica, as well as all the other characters not forgetting the dogs. Also perfect is the climate, Sicily in the unremitting unrelenting implacable summer.

It was a two swim episode. First the swim (mask and snorkel), then a read, another swim, another read, and back to the apartment.

The gang returned full of enthusiasm about the Museum, but I was not sorry to have missed it. They were particularly fulsome about their guide, Grant. A young man in his twenties, with a good grasp of the events and a talent for story-telling.

Lunch, then another visit to Safeway. We were running perilously low on staples (icecream), and bought some tuna for Michael to cook for us. While he was doing preparations I thought it was time for another swim.

We watched the sunset...
From Hawaii2010

From Hawaii2010

...and watched some more TV. As previously noted I do enjoy Squeal TV, but also its variation, Squalor TV. This includes Clean House (where people reveal their terribly cluttered and disorganised lives) and Animal Hoarders, where houses and their owners are taken over by hordes of dogs and/or cats. All very sad. Thus far I have resisted Fat TV (Too Fat for Fifteen, Dance your Ass Off, etc). Michael gets revenge with hours of Tour de France or baseball. There is no basketball, thank you god for small mercies.

We ate the tuna which was wonderful (stuffed with pineapple and pomegranate seeds, plus brussels sprouts, snowpeas, broccoli, and our first ever encounter with a rice-cooker.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday at the Foster Botanic Gardens

We are all finding that the best schedule is getting going at about 9 am, returning for lunch, then relaxing all afternoon. We are also finding that there are plenty of things we haven't already done in Hawaii. This morning's adventure (with a different designated driver) took us to the Foster Botanic Gardens. It was grey and raining, which gave us an opportunity to fiddle with camera settings and see things in a misty light. It also made the gardens very fragrant... or stinky, depending on the plant in question. The cannonball tree was very stinky.
From Hawaii2010

It wasn't far out of town, in fact it is right in town. It is a gem. There was a fabuous display of bromeliads, and orchids.

From Hawaii2010

Some of the trees were exceptionally large, and some exceptionally weird. There was a terrific display of spices, including a pepper vine, vanilla vine, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg trees, plus a herb garden.

From Hawaii2010

From Hawaii2010

Pitcher plant:
From Hawaii2010

From Hawaii2010

From Hawaii2010

From Hawaii2010

From Hawaii2010

The orchids were spectacular.

There has just been a Hawaiian special occasion - the Lahaina Noon, where the sun is directly overhead. This was celebrated in the garden by the construction of some witty sculptures.

From Hawaii2010

From Hawaii2010

We returned for lunch, and a snooze. Michael and I then went shopping to the Ward Centers, the Marukai Market, and the Nordstrom Rack store. We failed dismally at the Ward Center. Nothing at Brookstones, nothing at the wonderful kitchen shop that has everything (alas, we now seem to have everything too). Nordstrom was great, I made some great buys. Then to the market, which is a Japanese/Hawaiian market. We got some steaks which will be BBQed on the balcony upstairs, some fruit and veg, and some much-needed chocolate.

Today is the first day, and I hope the ONLY day, that I didn't swim. Sigh.

Sunday means the Bishop

The Bishop Museum, that is. The last time we went the big hall was closed for renovations, and we were looking forward to seeing it again. We set forth at about 9 am, and let our TomTom direct us. This led to much conversation about the GPS choice of route ("I wouldn't have done that!") and kibbitzing. Nonetheless, we got there in good time and in a direct fashion.

The big hall was beautifully restored, and the exhibitions very beautifully done. The feather capes were magnificent, the human hair/whale tooth necklaces as spectacular as ever. There was much more information, much of it in Hawaiian. There were perhaps fewer items on show, but more information about them. The weaving, netting, tapa cloth design and feather capes were of great interest to me.

We also saw an exhibition of surfing. Some of those boards are HUGE! We didn't do the Planetarium this time, although it was tempting.

I drove us home in the Impala, receiving advice from all three passengers plus TomTom. Eventually I boiled over with cognitive overload and told everyone except TomTom to be quiet. They knew what was good for them, and complied.

Although it was only just 12 noon, we were starving. Michael and I went to the Starbucks next door for an iced frappacino, a sandwich, and the New York Times. Funny how lunchtime comes early! Funny how you get snoozy after lunch! We ate, we snoozed. Then I went for a swim, which of course I enjoyed.

I've also been enjoying flipping around squeal TV. This is a specific form of reality TV involving people (usually young women) squealing, crying, and hugging each other. My picks include How do I look? What not to Wear, House Hunt, Clean House. I am saving Bridezilla for later. There is only so much squealing you can cope with in one day.

Michael is enjoying the coverage of the Tour de France.

We had a date with Julie and Martin at the Shore Bird grill-your-own restaurant next door. We all remember the 2006 earthquake when I made everyone leave the tenth floor and go there for breakfast.

I had ribs, Michael had ahi tuna kebabs, Martin had steak, Julie had chicken teriyaki. It was all very good. Julie had Mai Tais, Martin had beer, we had virgin pina coladas which were waaaaaaaay too sweet. At least they had chunks of pineapple and a paper parasol.

Sorry, no photos today. Well, perhaps I'll put one in from today (Monday) just so you have something to look at.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pancakes for breakfast, Isle Knits, Ala Moana shopping, and a soroban

We used Balcomms (leaning over the balconies to discuss matters of great import) to liaise for our proposed breakfast adventure. IHOP is a frequent answer in puzzles, and it stands for International House of Pancakes. Julie and Martin had waxed lyrical about the offerings there, so we left quite early, and quite ravenous. It is dangerous to get between me and breakfast, and I am not the only one.

We had a short wait, and then were shown to our table and introduced to Anthea, our server. I am always tempted to introduce ourselves too, by name, and let them know that we will be their diners. So far I have resisted that temptation....

We had pancakes and syrup (butter pecan is really good) and eggs and bacon and coffee and juice. All good. Mmmm. We waddled back to the Waikiki Shore, and parted company with Martin. Julie and I were headed for Isle Knits, and we dropped Michael off at Ala Moana Mall so he could cross a couple of items off his list.

On my Isle Knits list were Addi Turbo circular knitting needles, a lace circular (also Addi Turbo), and some Maizy sock wool for corn socks. We took about an hour, then back to Ala Moana to liaise with Michael, who had achieved his shoe objectives. We looked at the books in Barnes & Noble. We went to the Japanese department store looking for a new robe for my mother, kitchen gadgets, the food floor, and the beginnings of the hunt for a new standard size soroban for me (Japanese abacus), plus a bento box for Julie. See her blog for further descriptions of her purchases. I did not find the soroban, but the very kind assistant called another shop for me, and they had one, so I scheduled a visit there for later.

On my list was a new pair of Ann Taylor black pants. The old pair is getting increasingly shabby, but they are perfect. If I could find some more I would be happy. I found some more - not exactly the same, but close enough. And for only $40 on sale!! So I bought a grey pair as well. Julie and I tried on some soft clothes - trackie pants that looked OK, for only $8, but they were truly daggy and did not justify even that paltry amount.

We had two goes at the shopping, dropping some purchases in the car before returning for more. Julie must take after me - she bought some cast iron Le Creuset. Once upon a time in Utah I spent up big on cast iron frypans, which I carried home and still use almost every day. Souvenirs? Pah! Who wants souvenirs when you can buy cast iron?

We returned to the apartment for snacks (who needs lunch after an IHOP breakfast?) and a rest. Then I decided to walk the mile or so to the shop with the soroban. Hakubon Do is on Kapiolani, in the Pan Am building. I found it no trouble, and made my purchase. I got the Tomoe 23-rod one.

I have three or four resolutions to keep on this holiday:

* Get up when I feel like it
* Eschew the hairdryer
* Swim every day

After my long walk it was definitely time for the third of these resolutions. I swam. It was perfect.

Dinner was more spag bol (we are indulging in a lot of wheat while not catering to my mother's gluten intolerance), a sunset, and some TV. We were enthralled by the programme on dog obedience, including surf dogs. Dozer the bulldog won this event. There are plans for Majic on our return. He will LOVE it. We don't propose the surfing aspect for him, as it helps if they can swim. Pugs are not built for swimming.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 3: Rainbows, Shangri-La, and fireworks

I opened the curtains at 6.45 am to this rainbow.

After some fruit for breakfast, and some Illy blue coffee, I went for a swim. I might be in a rut, but I did my usual circuit of the three big white buoys out there. Back for a shower, to find another rainbow. This one was a full arch, over the ocean. As it faded it looked like there was a rainbow fire on the horizon, quite spectacular.

Today we planned on visiting Shangri-La. This is the estate built by the heiress Doris Duke, whose will stipulated that it be opened to the public after her death. Her passion was Islamic Art. That's a pretty big sweep, and she bought what she liked. It was very eclectic, and very beautiful. Persian, Syrian, Indian, a wonderful array of pieces in a spectacular setting on the 'other side' of Diamond Head.

Our trip started from the Honolulu Academy of Fine Arts, and we were bussed there and back.

We were all starving afterwards, so returned to our rooms for salady things for lunch, and snoozing. Julie and I went out later for 'girl shopping'. The boys are good, but there are subtle signals and special breathing that we recognise as impatience with looking at racks of clothes, shoes, arty things. I bought some leaf-shaped place mats, Julie bought another pair of shorts.

Back in our room, I prepared the dinner. I'd made some bolognaise sauce during the day, so cooked some spaghetti for a delicious bowlful. We had the benefit of some fireworks, so had fun twiddling with the camera again.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Diving, swimming, and snorkelling

I've done all three today. We woke with the daylight, just before seven. We ate pineapple, peach, pomegranate, then Canadian bacon and scrambled egg. Stoking up for rigorous activity.

Swimming time. I got into my new Sue Rice togs (Abigail, black, tribal), gathered my goggles for a swim (not the mask and snorkel this morning), plus towel etc. I gathered up the rubbish to take downstairs to the dumpster in the basement. Dumped it. Set off for the beach.... where are my goggles? Yes, I had dumped them. Thus ensued my first experience of dumpster diving, a time honoured sport. It was quite empty, so I had to climb up using one of the handy footholds, then jump in. Fortunately there was nobody watching (I hope.) Also fortunately there was a layer of nice clean cardboard on the bottom, to land on. I landed gracefully, retrieved the goggles, climbed out, and on my way. That took care of the diving for the day.

The swim was good - a real swim out to the first buoy, across to the second and third, then mooching back with the current to my starting point. As I lay resting on the sand with my book (The Leopard, by Lampedusa) couple about ten feet away renewed their wedding vows. An army chaplain did the honours. She wore a simple white dress with a floral lei. After the ceremony I applauded, and so did a mother and child nearby. Aaaah.

I returned to my book, becoming reacquainted with the prince Fabrizio (who now appears in my imagination as Burt Lancaster, having seen the movie since the last time I read the book, which was the last time I was here), his family, his dog, his friends, his enemies.
Up for a shower and to tame the straw hair. Had some lunch including a lot of salady things, then out for an excursion. Number one on the list is a Hugo Boss tracksuit for Michael. A while ago I bought him one for his birthday, and he is now anxious about wearing it out. There is a Hugo Boss shop nearby. Alas, it is not to be. They had nothing remotely similar. While out we looked at Chanel, Gucci, Max Mara, Tiffany, and a couple of other high names. Bought nothing (yet). Back through the Royal Hawaiian shopping centre, now open. Where is the ukelele shop? I had my hopes.....

A little reading, a little diarising, a little knitting, a little play with my camera based on the great big manual Martin has lent me (what is white balance? what does a histogram tell you? what is bracketing?).

Suddenly the call came. More swimming required. The afternoon swim called for the pink Gottex togs, plus mask and snorkel. And what a treat - for the first time ever here at the very familiar Fort de Russy beach, I swam within touching distance of a very big turtle.

Julie and Martin were back from their jaunt to the North Shore and the Dole Plantation. They bought a fabulous pineapple, some dried pineapple, and some taro chips (my favourite.) Mmmmm.

We plan to eat out tonight, at PD Chang. 8.30 is the earliest we can book for. Will we still be awake then?

Day 1: Arrival

We ate our Hawaiian Airlines breakfast after a bit of sleep.

No flat bed seat, so not much sleep. We landed, got our bags, and cleared immigration with no fuss. My fingerprints gave themselves up without the struggle that has characterised previous entries to the US. Emerging into the warm sunshine, we found our way to the rental car kiosk where we had ordered a standard car.

"Would you like to upgrade to something sportier - a convertible?" No.

"Would you like an SUV insteade?" No.

"What about a Jeep Wranger?" No.

We are not the sporty funky quirky types, and don't want sunburnt heads. We are boring old farts.

We got our silver Impala with a sunroof, and drove away very happily down H1 to Kalia Road, Waikiki. Our room wasn't quite ready so we contacted Julie and Martin who have been here for a week, and we went to their room to catch up. Sittting on the balcony overlooking the water finally got to me - I had to swim. I went down to the lobby to start rummaging around in my bag for my togs and snorkel/mask, to find that our room was ready! Yay! The view was as we remembered it.

We got organised, and I went for my swim. Hi guys! I greeted all the fish, all the coral, everything. Like being home again.

Phew, got that out of my system. I aim to swim every day.

Next on the agenda is shopping. We need to lay in stores for the next two weeks, as we are self-catering. Julie and Martin had reconnoitred, and we set forth for Safeways. A couple of hours later, after wheeling our trolley up and down all the aisles, we had enough to go on with. Said trolley came equipped with a cup holder, and just as you enter there is a shop for purchasing coffee or soda to put into the holder. We didn't indulge. I can do the shopping without coffee or other fuel.

We have enough food, enough cleaning supplies for the moment.

Michael offered to cook the dinner, so bought some swordfish, some maui and vidalia onions, and some tomatilloes for tonight.

Returning, we put it all away, and Michael began cooking. Julie and Martin came down to our apartment, we ate. It was delicious. A crescent moon and a diamond-bright Venus over the water lit our dinner. We played with our cameras and talked about the programme for the next week, while Julie and Martin are still here.

I ate one of the marshmallows Julie and Martin had both rejected, and rejected them. There is something not nice at all about them - they certainly aren't the Pascal ones Martin and I both favour. I ate some Cheetos, and accepted them! We had found Orangina, but it is not the version we so enjoyed in Noumea, it is full of high fructose corn syrup with is the latest food baddie. I drank it, but won't be buying another bottle. It isn't bitter enough - to sweet and soft.

Michael was asleep by 8 pm, and I flipped around the reality TV for a while. Buying houses is the new reality craze, and it has a certain voyeuristic fascination.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


All went according to plan. The taxi came, we said our goodbyes to Majic, and fronted up to the checkin counter at Hawaiian Airlines in good time. presented our frequent flyer cards for Hawaiian. Would you like to upgrade to Business for $585 each? I wrestled with my inner miser for a millisecond. Michael deferred to me, no doubt with considerable trepidation. We would, I said, to tangible relief. This is a very good deal on an overnight flight and means we might get some sleep. Here we sit in the lounge as happy as can be.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Preparing for Hawai'i

We are ready. Ready to get on an aeroplane bound for Honolulu. Ready to escape the winter chills. Ready to leave behind the coats, gloves, scarves, boots, heavy socks, and hot water bottles.

We've been many times before but it doesn't ever lose its gloss. The warm soft air, the swimming, shopping, relaxing. Ahhh.

I have several projects.

  • One ball of black sock wool, and a sock pattern. I will make lacy black socks that will not be stolen by he-who-thinks-all-black-socks-are-his. Perhaps he will draw the line at lacy cables.
  • One ball of baby alpaca in a fuschia colour, ready to be made into the Estonian Leaf & Nupp shawl. Am I mad to take on nupps? They are worth perfecting, I think.
  • Some small aeroplane tatting, in Mary Konior's Masquerade pattern. Started it when we went to Auckland, and it is now my Travel Tatting.
  • I have the set of Boye knitting needles so I can be flexible if I find something at Isle Knits.
  • I have the StitchDiva Endless CardiShawl pattern in case I find some nice yarn at Isle Knits.
  • Coloured pencils and sketch book.
  • Plans to buy some strings and instructions from a Hawaiian supplier for string figures (now that I am a member of the International String Figure Association.)
  • Perhaps a trip to the Soroban (abacus) School for a new large Japanese abacus.
I have my camera, the Kindle (with some books), we have the iPhones and a Netbook and our GPS (TomTom). We have some printed books. I have my diving mask and snorkel, and plan to buy a new beach towel. Two sarongs, two pairs of togs.

Is that enough? I didn't forget the sunscreen, sunnies, and a hat.

The plane leaves tonight. The housesitter arrives after work to get reacquainted with The Pug. I am ready.

(Note: I have turned off comments because I am sick of rejecting all those spammie things. )

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Chapter 3: Mending

Can you tell I have been putting this chapter off? Who mends anything these days. We just chuck stuff out or give it to Vinnies, and buy new stuff. We usually buy things well in advance of their needing any mending, and the modern fabrics are not nearly so prone to wear as plain linen, cotton and wool. Anyone who knits socks knows that sock wool must contain some nylon, else they wear out in about the same time it takes to knit them.

Thérèse agrees, mending is wearisome. But she says that no woman should be ignorant of the methods of doing it. Darning and patching are the two main methods of mending. Naturally, she breaks those down into further categories. There is linen darning, twill darning, damask or fancy darning, and invisible darning. Patching isn't just sewing something over a hole, oh no. There is hemming down a patch, overcasting a patch, and drawing in a patch.

I thought about skipping this chapter. Julie suggested that my galoon effort around the hems of the Nitya Black Pants could qualify as mending. Perhaps, but I didn't think either of those courses of action were in the spirit of this exercise. If I started skipping or cheating at this early stage where are my standards?

When thinking about a possible assignment, I looked first at the damask or fancy darning. Some of the patterns and techniques illustrated in the pictures looked quite interesting. So too did the little description. "Figs 68 and 69 (in my edition) show two specimens of darning as it was once done in convents." Those poor nuns. Were they taking in other people's mending? Was the mending itself more beautiful than the original?

I just couldn't think what I would use any of this for - embroidery? But that's not mending, so not in the spirit of this chapter. I continued.

Aha. Invisible mending sounded useful. This is otherwise known as fine drawing, and Thérèse says that in spite of its undeniable usefulness and importance, the art of darning cloth invisibly is known only to a few people. She goes on to say it is easy to understand, but takes great patience and care. That sounds like me.

Here are the instructions:

"A very fine needle is used, threaded with hair, which is stonger than the threads drawn from the cloth itself and less visible than silk or any other thread. Red or white hair is stronger than other colours. It is scarcely necessary to mention that the hair must be carefully cleaned before use, to free it from all traces of grease."

I look up, and across at Michael. White hair! Looks good! He quails. I consider. Is it long enough to sew with? Perhaps I should wait until just before he has a haircut. Then I have a brainwave. My red-headed daughter has a fabulous supply right on tap:

I'd have to insist that she washed it, and no curling it please. When I broached the idea with her, though, she didn't seem too keen on contributing. Sigh!

Assignment 3: On searching for items to mend with this technique, I glanced down at the pair of black pants I was wearing. This particular pair is the Hedrena second tier black wool pants. Not the Good Hedrenas, the Old Ones. They have developed a small hole in the thigh. They also had a big run at the back (I musta snagged them on something) which I had mended once before, not well. This is my chance.

The hair will probably come from my own supply. No doubt I can find some of sufficient length and suitable colour for this assignment.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Assignment 2: The machine conquered

See how long it takes me to get up the oomph to get at the sewing machine? Mum had some black knit fabric that I cadged for the purpose of this assignment. There was plenty of galoon left. A week or two ago I got out the sewing machine and put it up on the dining room table. I looked for my T-shirt patterns. Alas, in a fit of tidying, I think I had thrown them out. In digging very deep into the recesses of the linen cupboard I found some old paperwork that had been very carefully filed in order and put into a box. This, of course, led to a fit of shredding and throwing out. Sewing-machine avoidance tactics, of course. I'd had a fit of tidying and shredding a while ago, but this small, select cache predated even that. I had American Expresss statements back to 1985. I had tax returns back to 1979. There were group certificates and pay slips back to the seventies. Of course this was a bit of a trip down memory lane and no sewing got done that weekend.

Yesterday was planned to be a Beach Day. Saturday had been lovely, and I predicted more of the same for Sunday. The iGod said it was going to be 27, so I was sure it would be lovely. It wasn't. It was warm, but cloudy. I like sunshine at the beach. What should I do? Yes, sewing.

I have some old stretch knit patterns my mum gave me, including one for T-shirts. BevKnits Family t-shirt patterns. These are from the seventies, but they work a treat. I traced a pattern from this (and double checked against a couple of my favourite t-shirts) onto greaseproof paper (my usual modus operandi), and proceeded to cut out the black knit fabric. I knew when my mother got the knives out that sewing was going to happen, and I am the same. Who needs pins when you have a drawer full of knives? Pictured are the BevKnits pattern, the BevKnits instruction book, my paperback copy of Thérèse, the greaseproof-paper pattern and fabric, and the knives.

Stretch knit sewing is easy, and by the afternoon I had it done. I didn't have any trouble with the machine so I don't know whay I always have such angst about it. I decided that the galoon was going to be sufficient embellishment for this t-shirt, so used the machine plus some hand-hemming to attach it to the neckline and the sleeves. Seeing as how I was going high-tech I used some of that glue thread to iron up the hem.

It turned out very well, I am very happy with it, and am wearing it now.

There is some fabric left over. As it made up very nicely and feels good on, I am thinking about what to make with it. Right now, I am inspired by all Thérèse's talk of underwear trimming, so am thinking about a camisole with yoke tatted in beautiful black Godebrod silk my daughter gave me a while ago.

Will I do that today while the machine is still up, or wait until Thérèse's tatting chapter? Perhaps.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chapter 2: The Sewing and Embroidering Machine, Machine Sewing and Embroidering

Thérèse first published her book in 1884, so machines can't have been around all that long. In fact she gives a bit of a history, starting with F. Weisenthal in 1755. He took out a patent for an apparatus provided with a needle pointed at both ends, with an eye in the middle. Others attempted, but it wasn't until about 1850 that E. Howe and I.M Singer introduced (after many vicissitudes) something practical. Thérèse discusses the parts, the accessories, and the uses.

She also talks about Motive power. She means by hand, treadle, or the most convenient, an electric motor, which can be used wherever electric lighting is available. "Machine sewing has become an absolute necessity of everyday life."

Well, um. Motive power = motivation. I've been thinking about this chapter a lot, and while it is only a few pages, I've been avoiding it. I don't really like machine sewing. I don't like getting the machine out, and every time I do it seems I have to re-learn it. Perhaps if I left it out and ready to go, I might use it more, but having to wrestle it out of the cupboard and set it up on the dining room table is not fun.

Thérèse says that "uses for this kind of work are manifold, for besides being a pleasant pastime it enables those whose means are slender to gain a livelihood." Among the manifold uses are the trimming of the inevitable underwear, table and bed linen, curtains, blinds, and for large articles requiring imposing ornamentation.

My machine is a pretty good one, bought in a fit of enthusiasm. It has embroidery stitches, none of which I have used. None.

My mum is a very good seamstress and has made many beautiful garments. She had some black stretchy fabric, so I have claimed that for my next assignment.

Assignment Chapter 2: Machine sewing and embroidery.

My assignment is to make a black top and embellish it with some machine embroidery. Not only that, I am going to bind the neck and maybe the sleeves with the berry galoon. The embroidery will make use of one or more of the embroidery stitches on the machine.

But wait! There's more! While I have been avoiding thinking about the machine project, I have been looking ahead to Projects of the Future. (This is the MOST fun.) Freecycle is a great gift to us all, and I scored bigtime. Mostly I use it to get rid of stuff, but this time I saw an offer of fabric bits. I emailed. Did she have any nice linen pieces? Yes indeed she did. I went out to see Jacky at Croydon Park, and she had some wonderful linens. There were some pieces, both fine and coarser, ready to do all sorts of things with. Forthcoming chapters deal with Embroidery on White Materials, Linen Embroidery, and Openwork on Linen. Oooh, I can hardly wait!

Not only that, but she gave me a beautiful embroidered linen sheet which had belonged to her aunt's third husband's mother. Linen sheets are one of life's great blessing.

And a beautifully embroidered linen pillowslip.

My mother has claimed both of these items and will put them to good use. I didn't want to cut them up, and it is great to see them being used. Thanks Jacky, and thanks Freecycle.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Calloo Callay, Galoon Today!

Thérèse Assignment 1 - Completed

The galoon arrived, and it is beautiful. It is definitely what I expected, a kind of twin row of braid. The Black Pants were taken out of the wardrobe and examined.

Yep, very very frayed. No more wearing velcro sandals with these pants. I think the braid is going to look lovely instead of those raggy threads.

The instructions in The Book say that although this process can be done with a machine it is much easier to get the braid to go into place with the fingers. I am happy about this, because I don't want to get the machine out.

"These should be back stitched onto the right side of the article to be bound, quite close to the edge, then folded in half and hemmed down on the wrong side."

Back stitch is explained in detail earlier in the book. "Working from right to left, take up six threads of the material on the needle and draw it through; then insert the needle two threads back from where is was last drawn out, and bring it through again six threads beyond." This was done, but I confess to not counting my threads absolutely rigorously.

Having done the back stitch on the right side, it was folded over the article being bound, and I knew how to do the hemstitching without further reference. The bit not explained was how to join the ends of the braid into a neat circle, so I just did the best I could. I am quite pleased with the result.

Now for the other leg, and to wonder what I will do with the remainder of the galoon. There are several options. It is such beautiful braid, such a pleasure to work with, I can think of heaps of things that need binding with it. Perhaps I should buy a whole heap more and bind everything?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Therese or Thérèse

There I was on my early morning walk with the dog, wondering whether I should do Thérèse the honour of using her diacritics. I was deep in thought about this important question, and I remembered some news items about our Prime Minister's wife, Thérèse Rein. She copped some flak for insisting on her acute and grave. Thérèse deserves no less.

As I crossed the railway bridge going towards Erskineville thinking about this topic, I stepped on a piece of slippery cardboard on the footpath. My foot slipped, I threw my arms up to grab something, and my keys went flying. Where were they? I looked around, not there. I looked over the side of the railing, and there they were. They had fallen down one of the very few very small gaps in the wire, and were lying on a concrete plinth about two feet below me. Thank goodness they had not fallen all the way through to the railway line, but how was I going to retrieve them? What to do? Hmmm.

The pupster wanted to continue his walk, and I didn't think anyone was going to see the keys, let alone be able to get at them. We continued on our walk around. In the park I spoke to one of the regulars on the park bench (I often speak to her - is she an alcoholic? does she have a mental illness? She never looks happy, she looks very shy, but seems happy to be spoken to) and we both wondered what I would do.

When the walk was done, I went home and got a wire coathanger and returned to the scene. My friend on the park bench was interested in how I was going to cope with this. I could just get my head and arm through the railings, but there was no way the coat hanger was going to reach. Starting home to think about another tool (or calling the council for help), I realised that I could unwind the neck of the coathanger to make one much longer wire with a hook on the end. It was *just* long enough to hook the keys, and I was saved. As I read the newspaper this morning about the increasing amount of litter in the streets, I thought about that damned slippery cardboard on the footpath, and blessed the existence of wire coathangers.

Back to thinking about Therese vs Thérèse. It is easy enough to copy and paste the ampersandeacutesemicolon and ampersandsegravesemicolon each time, and perhaps I owe Thérèse the distinction of her real name. If I had a diacritic on my name, I know I would want it there, just as Thérèse Rein wants hers.

What are the ramifications? How will it print? Is it searchable under just Therese-with-no-accents? Investigations revealed that the search engines know about this problem. See here and here. My decision is to use the accents, in deference to my heroine.

Galoon report: It is on its way!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Therese Assignment 1: the search for galoon

The search for galoon (and what one might do with it) has taken me far and wide. As a librarian and wordlover, I looked first for a definition. After all, if you don't know what it is, how can you buy it? I ranged through all kinds of search engines. If you type define galoon into Google, you do get some hits, although it asks you whether you really mean gallon...

My confession is that I spent an inordinate amount of time typing terms into search engines like Google, Bing, Bing Images, my favourite Kartoo, and Clusty. I used search terms like galoon, galloon, galoon braid, galoon lace, and more. Given that Therese wants to use it as a binding, I'm assuming it is like a braid. Many of the websites I found took me to lingerie and erotic wear sites, where galoon lace seems a common enough term. But I didn't think Therese was talking about this kind of galoon lace, despite all her talk of fancy underlinen. During my ferretting around the web, I also noted that the web version of Therese's Encyclopedia no longers talks about braid or galoon. The image is there, but it is now referred to as 'sewing on flaps.' What happened? Was it too esoteric for more recent editions? Had racy lingerie given the term a bad name?

I found my way to Wordnik, where I found the word, and a chunk of text quoting the word but not really defining it. Of course, I signed up for Wordnik and added some comments of my own. Today's word-of-the-day is bombinate, in case you were wondering. Leading on from there, I found a definition from Webster's Dictionary. That made me feel a little shamefaced, so I got off the computer and went to consult our own copy of Webster, and then the OED. We have about three different versions of the OED on our reference shelves plus a range of other dictionaries. Why hadn't I thought to start there? Am I so internetted that I forgot about print? How embarrassing. Anyway, the Shorter OED lists the word under GALLOON, with an alternative for GALON. It is a French word, defined as a pice of narrow ornamental fabric, esp. close-woven silk braid or a strip of lace, used to trim or finish costume or upholstery.

I wandered down King Street to Bollywood Braids and Trims, a treasure trove of all things braidy. Alas, it being Tuesday, it was closed. I must go back. Surely they would know about galoon. Avanti, the lovely braid and tassel shop on King Street is no longer.

In my web wanderings I found myself at the Italian Ebay site, and found some divine berry coloured galoon trim. This is the current listing, and here is a picture.

Naturally I ordered some. In my exchange with the operator of the Italian ebay store, I also found their US version here, and a glossary of terms here. There is a wonderland of terms out there, arcane terms like dimity and dobby, suzani and tabinet. Who knew?

While I await delivery of the Berry Galoon, I wonder what to do with it. Trim underwear? Cushion covers? Trendy trim on a skirt or top? At the moment the best idea I have is to use it to bind the hems on some fine black pants. (Regular readers will know I have more than one pair of black pants, and they have names. Those in question right now are the Nitya ones.) When I wear velcro-closing sandals, the hems get caught in the velcro, and the hems of these pants are now shredded. A Berry Galoon binding might be just the thing to renovate them, and to practice on.

Our next Therese chapter is Machine Sewing, so stay tuned.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Therese Chapter 1: Plain Sewing

Where better to start than with plain sewing. Therese begins with a kind of apologia for hand sewing, acknowledging that the machine so often takes the place of the hand in sewing, but "in whatever circumstances of fortune one may be placed, the ability to sew well will always be useful."

You just know there is more to plain sewing than meets the eye. Right at the top of this chapter is a picture of a strip worked in running, herringbone and buttonhole stitches. This would hardly be called utilitarian, despite the simplicity of the stitches.

Therese has some useful tips in the first chapter, and some not so useful tips. Perhaps the least useful is the advice to those with damp sweaty hands. She advises those unfortunates to keep a small box of asbestos powder handy, and occasionally dip their fingers into it.

The more useful tips involve posture while sewing. "No kind of plain sewing or embroidery compels one to adopt an awkward attitude."
One must avoid ungraceful and unhealthy positions. One must keep one's work at a height that will render it unnecessary to lower the head, which should be held as straight as possible and at most only slightly bent forward. Perhaps I should modify my twisted posture, curling up on the sofa with legs tucked under, watching TV and sewing at the same time.

Who would think that there are so many different kinds of stitches and seams? She covers them all: flat seams, seam stitch, dressmaking seam, antique, openwork, double or french seam, open hemmed double seam, herringboning, whipping, scalloped gathers. She moves through gathering and smocking (remember we are still under plain sewing), how to sew on tape loops, rounded cords, piping, binding with braid or galoon, and ornamental stitches for underlinens.

As a child I dreamed of coloured underlinens decorated with ribbons inserted using the openwork seam, ornamented with coral stitch, single or double feather stitch, or Russian stitch with interlaced stitches. I wondered what galoon was, and where I could get it. I dreamed of little frocks with smocking, even though I was never the little frock kinda girl. The possibilities seemed endless as I browsed the pictures of delicate disembodied hands with needle and thread, working the stitches.

Coming back from dreamland, the section on how to sew on buttons and how to sew buttonholes is really useful. I refer to this often, as I mostly still work buttonholes by hand even though I know how to do it with my sewing machine. It gives me inordinate pleasure to do them by hand. Buttonhole stitch makes a little knot of each stitch around the edge of the buttonhole.

Plain sewing is so much more than a simple running stitch. This chapter alone earns the Encyclopedia its place on my bookshelf.

Assignment from Chapter 1:

Find out what galoon is, and make something with it.

I blame the books, especially Therese

It is true, I am a craft junkie, a craftaholic. A craft shop is an Aladdin's Cave, and I can hardly wait to try new things. Some people are passionate knitters (like my daughter.) Some people spend their lives doing cross stitch. Not me - I have to try new things.

The title of this blog reveals two major pastimes - knitting and tatting. However it does not cover the episodes of Berlin woolwork, cross-stitch, hardanger, lacework with bobbins, filet lace, macrame and more. I realised a long time ago that I am fascinated by what one can do with a single thread. While I've experimented with sewing clothes (I can do it, but I don't love it) and other hobbies (soapmaking is another story altogether), I love what one can do with a single thread. (That extends to string games/cats cradle, but that too is another story.)

Why am I such a junkie?

It is time to examine the origins, and I have two people to blame. The first is my father, whose mantra was "read the instructions." You can do anything if you have good instructions, and if you read them carefully. The second is Therese de Dillmont. Therese and I are old friends. Her Encyclopedia of Needlwork was first published in 1884, and when I was a child we had an edition - the New Edition, Revised and Enlarged. I still have that copy. You'll find the complete text and some information about the work at

It was a small compact book, with gold edging along the top, and coloured plates. I have no idea where it came from. It is battered, the spine is broken, the gold has worn off, it has a rubber band keeping it together.

Maybe it came from a school fete? My mother sewed clothes but she was not an embroiderer. She was a knitter and had done fine crochet work in her youth, but was not passionate about either. I loved that book, and spent hours poring over the instructions, the line drawings, and the coloured plates.

Not only do I have the original little book, not only do I have web access to the fulltext (I wonder could I download that to my Kindle?), I have a paperback version so I can use it for reference while venerating the little old copy as an object.

The book is a goldmine of technique. Just casting one's eyes over the table of contents is enough to start me rummaging through craft shops for tatting shuttles, old knitting needles, lace making bobbins, whatever.

Having recently watched Julie & Julia, I wondered about doing a series of blogposts taking me through Therese's book, and reporting on my adventures. The idea has festered long enough.

I don't intend making everything in the book, but I do intend looking at it chapter-by-chapter and looking into it in some depth. I will talk about what I have done from it and when, and what I would like to do. Perhaps I will find a new technique in here. Get ready, Katie & Therese are about to begin.