Friday, February 26, 2010

~tropical frangipani~

About three months ago DH arrived home with a rather dead looking branch and lovingly planted it in a large pot.  When I asked what it was, and what it was doing on our property, he said it was actually a tropical frangipani and that with some TLC it might survive.  It looked pretty dead to me.

DH fussed over the lifeless, leafless stick for a couple of months, checking that it had neither too much nor too little water, moving the pot around the lawn several times a day so it had full sun, moving it into the garden shed on cold nights, and back out again into the morning sun.  I didn't exactly get jealous of the dead looking stick, but it was definitely getting the priority treatment.

About a month ago it started to show signs of life, and slowly it spurt forth buds, then leaf shoots, and very soon it was sporting glossy dark green leaves.  The leaves look nice, I commented.  The flowers come next, he said, showing me tiny buds I hadn't even noticed.

And they did.  About a week ago one solo bud slowly unfurled to reveal its inner beauty:


And the others soon followed, with an incredibly sweet and heavenly scent:

  

It is hard to believe that a dead looking stick summoned the energy to produce all this beauty!  I think next year I might allow it to graduate from the pot, to a prime place near the patio.  

 

Monday, February 22, 2010

~silver fern sock pattern~

Introducing..... my first sock design!


I've named it "Silver Fern" after that iconic symbol of New Zealand, but you can knit it in any colour you like of course! 

It has a trailing fern-like design front and back, and  a lace rib panel at the sides.  The lace rib is quite stretchy, so although the pattern is for a women's medium foot, it does accommodate a wide range of foot sizes.  It fits my size 9 (Euro40) foot and even my son's size 4 as pictured!


They are knitted from the top down, and the pattern is charted, with the fern design extending into the toe as a finishing touch.  I used hand-dyed Patons Patonyle, but you could use any sock/fingering yarn that gives you a gauge of 8 sts/inch using 2.25mm needles.  For those wanting to knit a pair, I've made the pattern available for purchase on Ravelry for $4 USD.  Isn't Ravelry just great?

Overall I'm really happy with the way the design has come together, and I hope lots of other knitters feel the same!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

~not-so-favourite-activity~

Readers of this blog might be forgiven for thinking that all that I do all day is knit, sew and bake - but really I don't - honestly! 

Recently DH arrived home with this:


Do not be flattered by the word PAL on the handle, it has nothing to do with being friends, it is a paint scraper.

And just to show how much he cares, he also bought this lovely accessory for me:


He was so lucky Valentine's Day has been and gone.

So lately I have been spending hot summer days down the side of the house, up and down the ladder, trying hard not to look in the neighbours bathroom window, performing my latest not-so-favourite activity - paint removal.

This is the small price you have to pay for owning a wooden Victorian villa, one with multiple paint layers built up over the course of a century, thick layers that have begun to flake and need complete removal before a repaint.  

Despite a few blisters (it's hard work!), it is surprisingly rewarding to reveal the original timber inch by inch, and there have certainly been  some interesting colour schemes over the course of its history.

I do look forward to applying that final coat of paint though!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

~in-between project~

You know how it is - you go to your Local Yarn Store to get stuff for your next project, but it is out of stock and you have to wait for it to be ordered in, so you arrive home empty-handed with twitchy fingers desperately needing to cast on something!

So you check out a few magazines and decide on something completely unplanned.  The gauge works, the colours match, only thing is the main colour is tucked away in your drawers already knitted up in a garment!  A garment you've only worn once.  Mmm.

My zig-zag and bobble cardigan took about a month to knit, but only an hour to unpick and unravel, even with all those bobbles slowing down the process.  I wound the yarn into hanks, soaked it and hung it out to dry to try to remove the crinkles, and with a sunny breezy day it was dry in no time.  The crinkles relaxed a bit and didn't totally disappear, but I cast on anyway for my in-between project -  #6 Fair Isle Yoke Top by Fiona Ellis, from Vogue Knitting Holiday 2009.



Faced with miles of stocking stitch in the round up to the armholes, I decided to adopt one of my favourite mottos: turn a disadvantage into an advantage, and took the opportunity to try and improve my knitting technique and speed.  I'm an English style knitter and work with the yarn in my right hand, but I've always clumsily dropped the right needle, picked up the yarn with my thumb and forefinger, wound it around the needle, dropped the yarn, picked up the needle, etc.  While knitting this top I've been practicing using just my forefinger to wind the yarn around the needle, and although I was tediously slow and bumble-fingered for the first few rows, it soon became easier to do, and now I am pleased to announce it is second nature to me, and I am a faster knitter - I should have done this 20 years ago!

Brown is not one of my favourite colours, but there is something about this yarn I really do like - it is heathered and slightly silvery, and I do think it shows it's character better knitted up in plain old stocking stitch.  I've combined it with some stash items - pale blues, ivory, and a hint of pink - and quite like the result so far.


I think this is going to be a much better top-for-mucking-around-in-with-jeans than the last one!

Oh - and the yarn has now arrived in for my next project :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

~pomegranate love~

Ever since I learnt of their existence, I've wanted to sample a pomegranate.  Native from Persia to the Himalaya, this ancient exotic fruit often appears in mythology and art as a symbol of prosperity and fertility, as well as featuring in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.  It is not commonly available in New Zealand, but Californian imports are now popping up occasionally on the shelves of the supermarket.


They're fairly expensive, so when I saw them for half price this week, I popped one in the shopping basket without hesitation.  Once I got home it didn't last long in one piece - in fact it didn't last long at all!  I gobbled it all myself, stopping just long enough to take a few photos.

 

Isn't it pretty?  A starry arrangement of luscious juicy seed capsules, segmented by papery ivory pith. The thirst quenching juicy capsules pop in your mouth as you eat, and surprisingly, the seeds aren't at all annoying.  Coming from someone who picks the seeds out of a grape, that is saying something!

The taste reminds me slightly of redcurrants - which is a distant taste from my childhood.  Mum grew several redcurrant bushes in our garden to make jelly from - if there was enough fruit left after three children had raided them, that is!  There were also blackcurrants and gooseberries - mmmmm, those were the days.....

However I digress.  If you haven't tried a pomegranate already - do, because you're missing out.  From now on I'm going to snap some up whenever I see them.

I just love those juicy tangy ruby pearls.....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

~the best banana cake recipe~

I'm not the greatest fan of banana cake, but usually whip one up when we end up with over-ripe bananas just so I don't feel wasteful discarding food.  But more often than not it is a bit dry, dense, and with a cloying banana taste.

But since I found this banana cake recipe from my compatriot Simone I have been won over.  (While you're there check out the rest of her lovely blog, and oogle her gorgeous photography too!)  It was passed on to her by her flatmate, and no doubt will be passed on a few times more as it really is the best banana cake recipe - moist and light and sweet and sticky - Mm-mmm.....

And there is no messing around creaming things either - just melt the butter and mix everything together in a bowl!  Do try it - mine is baking in the oven as I type and the kitchen smells just divine.  I only hope it lasts until the photography stage!

(Phew - I just managed to top it with chocolate and grab a quick shot before the hungry schoolboy got home!)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

~winter vogue knitting~

The other day I picked up the latest Winter 09/10 issue of Vogue Knitting - even though it is midsummer here in New Zealand, the timing is quite good because it gives you plenty of time to decide what to make, and to actually get it made before winter begins.  Mind you, with my queue the length it is, I am not promising to actually achieve this!

I should subscribe as I usually do buy every issue and wouldn't like to miss out on one, but I've found if you pop into Borders on Queen Street a couple of weeks after it hits the newsstands in the US, there is usually a big pile of airfreighted editions on the shelf!

So after perusing the designs in VK for a few days, here are my hits, misses and maybes:

Hits: 
#2 Shawl Collar Cardi by Cathy Carron
#4 Fair Isle Tunic by Jean Moss
#12 Cable Panel Tunic by Suvi Simola
#18 Striped Hoodie by Josh Bennett
#19 Men's Vest by Josh Bennett
#20 Lace Edge Cardi by Coralie Meslin
#22 Fitted Jacket by Jennie Atkinson
#26 Ribbed Cardigan by Karola Gottwald
#31 Snowball Mittens by Elinor Brown

Maybes:
#3 Cowl Neck Pullover by Mari Lynn Patrick
#17 Man's Cable Cardigan by Josh Bennett
#24 Raglan Cardigan by Tanis Gray
#27 Lace and Texture Scarf by Cathy Carron

Misses:
#1 Striped Cardigan by Brandon Mably
#16 Cowl Neck top by Twinkle
#7 Floral Cardigan by Josh Bennett
#21 Ruffled Cardigan by Shirley Paden

I'm not sure there is anything I will be rushing to knit in this issue.  I'd like to knit the Fair Isle Tunic at some stage just for fun, and maybe Tanis's cute Raglan Cardigan - mainly because I have some stash that would work.

Interesting to see that Vogue will be introducing an Early Fall issue from this year - more to choose from can only be a good thing!