Tuesday, December 29, 2009

~crochet sunhat~

The other day at the beach I got the chance to try out my new crochet sunhat!

We drove north of Auckland for half an hour to Orewa Beach - a magnificent long white sandy beach on the east coast that is safe for swimming. In the photo I am looking towards the tip of Whangaparoa Peninsula, and in the far distance you can even see the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula about 50 km away.

The sunhat pattern is from Knit Simple magazine S/S 2008, but you probably don't even need a pattern if you are familiar with crochet because you can just try it on as you go. I used Patons Washed Haze Aran and I think this yarn works perfectly in a sunhat.

I initially made this because I had a couple of balls in my stash and thought it would be a good way to use them up, but what do you know, I ran out just before the last round and had to buy a new ball to complete the brim! Not quite the stashbusting mission I thought I was undertaking, but at least now I have a sunhat!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

~christmas~

' Twas the night before Christmas
So what did we do?
Shared a bottle of wine
And enjoyed the view!

This is the sunset from our verandah on Christmas Eve, as we enjoyed this:

Craggy Range Te Kahu 2007 - a delicious Hawke's Bay Gimblett Gravels wine using the traditional Bordeaux grape varieties (Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec/Petit Verdot).
It is exceptional buying for about $25 - it has a wonderful nose of cherry, chocolate and tobacco, and is full-bodied with a sensuous palate of blackberry and black cherry.
Divine.
Try some.
Tonight.

In our house presents get opened early on Christmas morning. 'Opened' sounds a rather sophisticated description, 'De-wrapping fest' sounds more like the real thing!

So what does a good girl like me get for Christmas?

A set of nice red tea towels from dear son,

And from DH a remote release - so it is easier to photograph myself wearing my knitting! I already have a cable release, but this one eliminates that annoying 10 second dash!

Christmas day dawned with picture perfect weather. I spent the morning making more use of my icing set by icing more Christmas cookies, and DH whizzed up his specialty - pavlova (3 actually!) - to take around to his family for the afternoon. The day was spent lazing in and out of the sun, enjoying wonderful food, wine, and company. Perfect.

OK - must dash - we are off to the beach this afternoon!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

~babette blanket~

I've been slowly working on the infamous Babette Blanket for a while now, and really love the results so far. It is quite addictive making all those little squares, and I don't think I'll be able to stop myself making another one because I keep thinking of all the other colour possibilities, not to mention the stash-busting opportunities!

I've chosen mainly plum/raspberry colours combined with shades of green, which was quite difficult to do in a country where 4 ply comes mainly in pastels or brights! I've added in a few 6 ply and 8 ply weights to allow a greater colour range, but I don't think it really matters as I've managed to block them to the same size.

From observing other crafters on Ravelry, it seems there are two main approaches to this project - either choosing colours totally randomly with a lucky dip from your stash, or carefully selecting colours that look good next to each other. I am definitely of the second breed - clashing colours would annoy me every time I looked at my finished object!

I don't think I would ever sew it up if I made all the squares first, so I am sewing them together in groups as I work. This helps with planning the colour of the next squares too. I've left long ends, and use them to sew the squares together in mattress stitch in the back loops of the finishing round. I'm not sure if this is technically correct, as most books suggest crocheting them together. But I like the flatness of my made-up method, and really love the way it results in little contrasting running stitches in places - just like a bought, oops I mean homemade, one!

Pattern: Babette Blanket
Designer: Kathy Merrick
Published: Interweave Crochet Spring 2006, Interweave online store
Ravelry link: here

Saturday, December 19, 2009

~the icing on the biscuits~

With L off to a friends for the afternoon, I finally had time to ice those Christmas spice biscuits we made the other day - don't they look delectable?

After a couple of days stored in the top shelf of the pantry, I am sure there weren't as many biscuits as I remembered, and that the monkey has been up to his sneaky tricks!
And I must admit that the biscuits once iced lasted no longer than a day, and now as I write they are a distant but lovely memory.


I used a Royal Icing as it is pure white and dries hard to a smooth snowy finish. You need to keep the bowl covered as you work, as it dries quite quickly when exposed to air. The consistency required depends on whether you are icing the entire biscuit surface, or piping the icing. Vary the consistency by either adding more icing sugar, or more egg white/lemon juice mixture. Here is my recipe - there is enough here to ice all the ginger spice biscuits I made.

Royal Icing:

1 egg white
1 t lemon juice
1 1/2 C icing sugar, sifted

Beat egg white and lemon juice together until foamy.
Add icing sugar and mix until smooth.
(Please note - it is recommended that pregnant women should not consume raw egg white.)

~shopping satisfaction~

Yesterday was the last time I will be making one of these for a while, as school holidays here have now begun. For his last primary school lunch L ate everything except the sandwiches, which returned home in their wrapper completely untouched. I suppose that is my hint to try something new next year, instead of peanut butter day after day! I made a quick visit to the shops to get the last 2 balls of yarn needed to finish my Azuki top, and snapped up a few extra items I'd like to show you. First more Christmas tree decorations - these "sweet home" hearts are from the Japanese $3 shop near Borders Books:

Every year I pop into Smith & Caughey's wonderful Christmas section to add a few more to my collection. I was a bit later this year and the selection was getting low, but there were still a few must-haves, like this wooden reindeer and Fimo Santa:

and in true recessionary mode I snapped up these ones for only $3 each:

At the $3 shop I also picked up some pretty pretty Japanese origami papers. I am sure I will find something fun to do with them - decoupage maybe?

But my biggest, most exciting purchase is next. After making all those Christmas cookies I searched high and low for my cheap plastic a la supermarket icing set to no avail. I suspect it may have been used as a water pistol at some stage and now lies buried in the garden - who knows?! All I do know is that it isn't where it should be!
I prefer the syringe icing sets to the bag icing sets, and it seems everybody else does too, because bags were all they had left in Smith & Caugheys and everywhere else I looked, until finally I found some in a kitchenware shop (Stevens) next to Masco Wools. But I gasped with glee like a child finding candy when I looked further behind them on the shelf, and saw this:
I had to have it! My mother has an original 1950's set, and I've always admired it for it's quality and fine nozzles. And of course it has nostalgia plus plus plus!
But at $89, could I justify it?
The other model was half the price. Mmm.
It was the last one. Mmm.
After a couple of minutes consideration I walked tentatively towards the counter. Mmm.
Then I saw the sign:
25% off everything today only!
Well that immediately stripped away any feelings of guilt, and out of the store I skipped, the delighted owner of a beautiful Tala icing set, made in England, packed in a retro tin in all its shiny gorgeousity, complete with a quaint instruction booklet and superfine writing nozzle.
Now I feel like a domestic goddess!
I also treated myself to the November Country Living magazine, and whilst reading it on the bus on the way home I stumbled across my brand new icing set featured on page 16. Isn't it funny how sometimes little things happen, and they really seem like they are meant to be?
Oh - and guess what I'm up to this afternoon!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

~christmas cookies~

The other day I took a short cut through Queen's Arcade and couldn't help but notice these stacked on a table outside a kitchenware shop. I used to collect cookie cutters, but they seem to have gradually disappeared over the years - usually into L's toybox! So two minutes and seven dollars later I walked out of the shop with some new toys for myself - this time adults only!

So now I have added to my dwindling collection of odd hearts and stars, gingerbread man, woman and child (how PC is that!), butterfly, teddy bear, and other non- descript cookie cutters, and now I have a shiny new star, candy cane, bell, tree, an angel and a reindeer!
Yesterday I mixed up the dough, and when he got home from school L couldn't wait to get started - of course he had to make the first cut!

I think the angels are my favourite - they look like they are about to fly off the paper, don't you think?

But the reindeer are pretty cute too!

We rolled out and cut the dough over and over again until we finally got to the tiny piece that was left - and I found a tiny star that just fitted:

No prizes for guessing what happened to this piece:

I always think if the mixture tastes good, the finished product will too!!
Let me share the recipe we used - it's so easy (none of that creaming of butter and sugar!), and it's lots of fun doing it with your kids:
Ginger Spice Cookies
185 g unsalted butter, cubed
1 C caster sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk (egg white is saved for icing)
2 1/2 C plain flour, sifted
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 1/2 t ground ginger
Process butter and sugar in food processor until smooth.
Add egg and egg yolk, lightly mix.
Add flour, cinnamon and ginger, process to a smooth dough.
Lightly knead dough, wrap in glad wrap and put in fridge for 30 mins.
Roll dough out evenly to 3mm thickness between sheets of baking paper, cut into shapes.
Bake about 8 mins in 180 C oven.
Turn onto wire rack to cool, and ice when cold.
Store in airtight container for 2-3 weeks (ours never last that long!)
So here we have the product of our afternoon - a selection of delectable cookies all ready to ice! We couldn't resist a couple each before putting them up in the top shelf of the pantry, until I get around to icing them.
But what did I hear about an hour later? A chair being slowly dragged across the kitchen floor towards the pantry, the pantry door opening, and a someone climbing onto the chair. Let's just say I caught the little monkey red-handed!
Now I just need to locate my icing set, and the fun begins!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

~tree decoration~


I've had this wee number knitted for a while now, and it's been waiting patiently on our television until we got our Christmas tree.

It is knitted top down with raglan increases - just like a real jersey! I think the hanger (which I fashioned out of good old 15 amp fusewire) is a cute touch, and I added some fair isle stitches to make it more interesting and Christmassy.

A fun way to use up some stash!

Pattern: Cheers!
Designer: Cheryl Niamath
Free Ravelry download here

Monday, December 14, 2009

~day lily~


Spotted in the garden today - don't you just love the colour?

Yesterday we got our Christmas tree, so we spent the whole morning getting it set up and adorning it with lights and decorations. It took the three of us to get it into the tree holder straight (these things should come with a level!), and whoever put away the Christmas tree lights last year left them in a complete tangle (1 hour was spent untangling them!), and then all the decorations have to be arranged in a well-balanced manner (another hour maybe?!).

But it is all good fun, and I really wouldn't mind if it took all day...

Our son went to a friends place for the afternoon - so we quickly nipped into town, brought him a present, wrapped it and placed it under the tree, so when he arrived home he got a nice surprise!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

~no winners~


It was sports day at our primary school this week so I went along for the afternoon to watch my son “run, jump and throw”. As you can see the weather was magic.

First up was the obstacle course - there were 2 teams and each team member had to run the course in turn a bit like a relay. I got excited at first as my son’s team was winning, but they fell behind when one boy tripped over, so I cheered them on for encouragement, and the first round was completed enthusiastically. But soon boredom set in - the children started running past the obstacles instead of over them, or rearranging the course to make it easier, and some just gave up and started doing their own thing. By the time the bell rang to move on to the next event, the obstacle course was dismantled, the teams were muddled up, and half the players were just fooling around!

Long jump was the next event. At first I was excited about some actual competition, until I found there was no tape measure in sight. Not even a piece of string. Some of the boys did impressive jumps and they all had tremendous fun as you’d expect with boys and a sandpit. But with nothing to challenge them they soon resorted to demonstrating their best mid-air antics for the camera!

Next came the sack races – well actually there was no race at all, it was a complete free for all. After a couple of lengths of the ‘racetrack’ the boys just jumped around at leisure, banging and crashing into each other, tripping each other up, having lots of fun but achieving little.

To summarise the day:
1. No winners discovered the rewards of good effort.
2. No losers discovered that to get better they need to try harder.
3. All players discovered that it is OK to be mediocre, achievement isn’t necessary.

As a parent I found that very disappointing, and I walked home thankful that my son will be attending a new school next year.

The philosophy of “nobody is a loser” is idealistic and unrealistic. Learning to win and learning to lose is an important life skill our children need to develop.
Children need to learn that they don’t always win, that they’re not always great at everything, and that it’s alright to lose and feel disappointed.
They need to learn to try, try, and try again, or to try harder, or to try something else that they are good at.

We need to be honest and realistic about winning and losing, and about success and failure, because they will be sure to encounter both in their adult life.
It’s disingenuous to tell them they are doing well when they are not, and discouraging not to acknowledge when they accomplish something. We need to celebrate winning and achievement so our children will maximise their potential.

Otherwise our society will be just like the school sports day I went to – with no winners.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

~gardenia~


This morning as DH left for work he picked me this pretty gardenia bloom from our front garden. We have several gardenia plants which look stunning at the moment, with their lush green foliage and white flowers that radiate an intense fragrance. I put it in a little vase and this tiny bloom has managed to scent the whole house all by itself. Isn't it beautiful?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

~summer tank top~


I've finally finished this top - it has been waiting patiently for the ends to be sewn in for a while now - maybe it just took some warmer weather to motivate me to do so!

This is my first foray into neutrals as I find they don't particularly suit me, but I do like this putty colour and it happens to go great with denim. The 80% bamboo/20% wool yarn feels gorgeous to wear, and overall I am really happy with the fit - especially the neckline shaping.

I quite liked the Verena stylist's idea of a scarf, so out came my vintage Liberty silk scarf especially for the photo!

Pattern: #37 Chocolate, from Verena Knitting Summer 2009
Yarn: Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo, colour 132 Putty, 7 balls

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Onwards and Upwards


My Azuki top is coming along nicely. The first portion is relatively boring to knit, being basically k4,p4 rib and a couple of decrease rows, and I am surprised I have got this far without putting it aside for something more interesting! I just keep thinking of the finished design, which I love, and that the sooner I finish it the sooner I can wear it. Onwards and upwards, as they say!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Santa is coming...


Since today is the first of December and Santa will shortly be leaving the North Pole, I thought I'd share this photo that I created for a photo challenge on Flickr.

There is a little story that goes with the photo. When I was a little girl and Santa used to come down the chimney on Christmas Eve, he always seemed to have a hole in his pocket, and he'd leave a trail of Mackintoshes toffees from the fireplace to the Christmas tree. Mackintoshes happened to be my Dad's favourite too, and I thought it was cool that Santa and Dad had the same taste in lollies, that was until I realised Santa WAS Dad!

So it just goes to show - for Christmas you don't need to spoil kids and buy the latest and greatest and most expensive, sometimes the simplest of gestures are far more appreciated and enduring.

By the way, I like the Mint :)