Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 1: Blogtoberfest!!

Happy October, everyone. Can you believe it's October already? I have two months until my first piece of academic writing is due (eek!) and just under three months to get all Christmas shopping and knitting done... It doesn't really seem like enough time!

Because I love doing it and I haven't done it for a couple of years, I've signed up for:

I'm pretty excited! Blogtoberfest is great because it forces encourages me to really get into the blogging and writing process and challenge both my creativity and stick-to-itiveness. I also love the opportunity to discover new creative and interesting bloggers. According to the sign-up sheet there are currently 148 bloggers participating in this event. If I visit five blogs a day, I'll be able to see them all by the end of the month - I predict my google reader blogroll will be a lot longer by then...

I will be approaching this challenge in the spirit rather than the letter of the law - I'm aiming for 31 posts rather than a post each day for 31 days. I think I can do it...wish me luck!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Happy Friday and counterintuitive advice about your feet

Today's post is brought to you by Kingston Library's free WiFi because, again, my Internet ran out many days before the month was over. I suspect funny buggers with my home WiFi, but the lovely girl at Optus Technical Support I spoke to today said that Optus are having problems with their usage meters, so she gave me another 500MG of usage to get me through the month. I'm strictly using that data for paid business use only, so for pleasure and study I'm at the library. Fortunately, the library know exactly what a girl needs when she's deep in explorations of silent cinema and female spectatorship - a window to gaze out of. Windows are seriously the best.   

I actually have finished knitting to share (woohoo!) but today is far too wet and dreary to take photos outside and too dark and miserable to take photos inside, so the FOs will have to wait until next week. I've reached the stage of the black socks where, although Ravelry says I've only been working on them for 11 days, it feels like 11 years. I'm dreaming about itty bitty black stitches! I'm taking that pair of socks every where I go and whenever I get a second knitting a few stitches, because even though it feels like my work is being sucked into a black hole of black yarn, I know that there are a finite amount of stitches in a pair of sock and, as long as I keep adding stitches to the sock, they will eventually get done. Hopefully before I take those skinny needles and stab myself. Fingers crossed.

I would like to take the opportunity of the torrential downpour to share with you my No.1 wet-weather tip garnered from many years of living in Melbourne and staying as warm and dry as is humanly possible:

Wear thongs outside when it's raining. I know it seems counterproductive to expose your foot to the elements - don't your toes get cold? Trust me, the slight discomfort you get from chilly footsies is nowhere near the icky and gross feeling of walking around inside with wet and disgusting socks or stockings. Try it once - it will change your life (or at least mean you suffer less when it rains). Now bad hair caused by rain, that I haven't figured out yet.

Happy Friday everyone! Stay warm and dry and have an excellent weekend :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In which I do things on the Internet

It should be no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I don't really understand how to do anything on the Internet. To be honest, I don't really want to do or know how to do anything on the Internet - except for this little corner of the world wide web where I blather on and on about things that interest me, I'm more of a consumer than a producer. But there comes a time when I need to actually be a bit more a joiner, a giver rather than a taker, so here's where I'm at.

I am on twitter! My twitter-name is @HereIKnit  and, while I don't actually tweet (I'm not that much of a joiner), let me know who you are and I'll follow you. I'd also love any recommendations - there's a lot of boring 'look what I had for lunch' tweets that need to be sorted through to find the interesting, funny and worth-reading ones.

I also started a book review blog, Here I Read. If you are so inclined, pop over and read my new review of Classic Hollywood star Joan Fontaine's autobiography, No Bed of Roses. I haven't decided if I'll only post reviews there or cross-post them - any thoughts? I'll probably take it on a book-by-book basis. I do want to learn how to be a better reviewer because I have so many opinions and I love to share. So. Many. Opinions!

Now I'm exhausted. Being a joiner is hard work!

It's very tiring for Lucy too. Poor dear.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It must be Monday

I was pretty excited when I popped my newly finished and blocked socks outside to dry. Seriously, a week that starts with a pair of delightful new socks is bound to be a wonderful week!  But when I lay them out, I noticed something was a bit off....

Can you see it?

How about now?

And now?

The socks are different sizes! Sock A is perfect, but the calf on Sock B is half a repeat short while the foot of Sock B is half a repeat too long. FFS, Belinda. How many years have you been knitting? Rookie mistake!

It must be a Monday, because things like this don't happen on a Friday. (although, in all honesty they may have been caused by finishing the socks while enjoying Friday night drinks. Note to self: always measure while sober)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Saturday, glorious Saturday!

This afternoon I should have been working, writing, studying or exercising. Instead, I played hooky for an hour and sat outside in the glorious sunshine knitting and listening to the new Regina Spektor album. I started the Merino Lace Socks from Favorite Socks in the Mountain Color Barefoot I bought a few weeks ago. It's my second Christmas gift project and I'm hoping starting early this year will avoid a log jam closer to the Big Day.

 Using this yarn is like knitting with butter! It's soft and delightful and I want to replace all of my clothes with clothes made from this yarn and make blankets and socks and hats and be covered in it from head to foot! It's that delightful, really. 

During the week I finished the fun stranded part of Sam's Anniversary Socks:

 I am really pleased with how it turned out. It clearly needs to be blocked and the A is totally wonky but I think it looks awesome and I can't want to give them to him! The best thing is I realised they don't have to be stealth socks - I can cover the grey part with the cuff and the message disappears.

As much as I want the finished project, I'm not very excited about actually knitting the rest of the sock. Socks for a size 12 men's foot knit in black on 2.25mm needles...not fun. It'll be a slog but I'm certain it'll be worth it in the end.

Lucy kept me company (she loves Regina too). After an hour I started feeling guilty about all of the stuff I wasn't getting done, so I packed up my knitting, strapped on my walking shoes and set off into the street for my daily constitutional. I am really glad I did because everywhere I looked I was greeted by sunshine and gorgeous flowers.

 So beautiful!

I even made a new friend.

Although I didn't tell Lucy about that. She doesn't like to share.

All in all, a lovely Saturday that will only get better when I pop open the bottle of bubbles I have in the fridge. I heart sunshine and weekends :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

I was really looking forward to reading this book. I hated Solar with the passion of a thousand burning suns (see what I did there?) but all the reviews I read said how good this book was, how different it was to Solar and how similar it was (in style not content) to Atonement – exactly what I needed to her to get me excited about reading McEwan again. The opening paragraph gave me goosebumps:

My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost forty years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British security service. I didn’t return safely.

Exciting, right? Presaging much thrilling action, right? Wrong. Serena’s secret mission is to fund a novelist. Yup, that’s it. She gives a novelist enough money to quit his day job and write. Pretty exciting stuff! There’s a lot of information about politics in England in the ‘70s and a whole bunch of stuff about the emerging literary scene of that time that completely went over my head and was, frankly, boring. We were also asked to believe some very unlikely things such as Haley's Austen Prize experience, (although Haley's short stories were the highlight of the whole book). Sweet Tooth was a real slog to get through, which is a huge disappointment from the author of masterpieces such as Saturday and Atonement.  I recently re-read Amsterdam, which won the Booker prize in 1988, and in direct comparison to that novel this book lacked spark, verve, life and passion. It was very well written, but that’s just not enough. Two out of five stars.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: $120 Food Challenge and A Legless Chocolate Cake

Recently I was intrigued to see a cookbook based on the $120 food challenge blog at my local library. I’m always looking for ways to eat better more cheaply and I love the idea of an Australian-based budget cookbook that uses ingredients which are easy for Australian cooks to get following Australian seasons, so I placed it on hold. It arrived last week and I am very impressed.

My first impression of the book was that the recipes look great! There are even vegetarian recipes that I think my carnivorous boyfriend would love, which is saying a lot. Sandra Reynolds takes cheap ingredients and uses herbs, spices and processes to make basic food tasty and inexpensive. The downside to this is that to do this needs time and planning – this is not a cookbook for someone who wants to get home, look in the pantry and grab ingredients for dinner to be on the table in 20 minutes. That said, I’m a planner with lots of time, so not a problem for me at all. My first recipe was the 'Legless' Chocolate Cake.

The cast of characters:

Sandra says it’s a huge cake, so I halved the recipe (full not halved recipe given below). Given how easy it was to halve, I wouldn’t be surprised if at some stage in the recipe’s evolution it has been doubled to take to a party and just stayed that way.  It's an easy cake to mix, which is a definite bonus in my book. 

I served it with strawberries and cream...

..and it was absolutely delicious! Plus all of the ingredients for the cake itself are pantry and fridge staples. I can see this cake coming into frequent rotation every time I entertain. I think this cookbook is a winner.

A Legless Chocolate Cake

2 cups caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla essence or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 2/3 cups plain flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups hot coffee
icing sugar or extra cocoa powder, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and flour a cake tin.
2. Beat sugar, egg, vanilla and oil and beat with a hand-held electric mixer for four minutes or until smooth and creamy.
3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a separate bowl. Add to egg mixture in alternate batches with the coffee, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
4. Pour batter in tin and cook for 40-50 minutes or until cake is done.
5. Cool in the tin for a few minutes and then turn out onto a cake rack to cool completely.
6. EAT!

PS: I also tried the steak and wedges and they were completely delicious. I would definitely recommend this cookbook

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Shhh!! It's a secret...

Every year I make Sam three pairs of socks - one for his birthday, our anniversary and Christmas. Over the years I have perfected his perfect sock - 76 stitches per round, stockinette, 20cm long cuff and a  ridiculously high instep. These socks fit him perfectly but they're neither interesting to knit or interesting to blog about! So for the sake of my sanity and having something noteworthy to share, I spent Saturday afternoon messing around with knitting graph paper and coloured texts and came up with this:

Socks with a message! Sam has an uncanny ability to find his presents before they're due to be given to him so this is going to be a majorly stealth project. I think he will really heart these - I cannot wait to see his face when he opens his present! Of course I have to actually knit them first, but details schmetails - this project will rock.

In Other News: One of these is not like the others

I was collecting water bottles from various rooms of my house before refilling them because paying for bottled water makes me both incredibly ragey and feel like an idiot at the same them, when my cat saw them and decided to be a joiner. Too cute!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Welcome, spring. I heart you.

Spring is my favourite time of year - the days are getting brighter and longer, the weather is warming up and everywhere you look plants are bursting into flower (I live in a very verdant suburb - there are flowers everywhere!). This should be no surprise to long-time readers, because every time September 1 rolls around, I say the exact same thing. Literally. Verbatim. Exact same thing.

However, one thing I didn't realise until I went through my sadly repetitive September posts is that, for some reason, I always buy yarn at this time of year. Why? I don't know. It's my spring imperative, apparently - buds burst in to bloom, lambs are born and frolic, I buy multicoloured sock yarn. It's a mystery.

This year's haul: plain black for Sam's Christmas socks. They will involve colourwork, I'm just not sure exactly what type at this stage.

For my mother and my mother-in-law's Christmas socks, some Mountain Colors Barefoot. This yarn is really soft so hopefully it will produce lovely socks.

And the other thing that September usually presages that is evidenced in what I chose to buy...Christmas knitting! I'm keeping it real this year with no more than five pairs of socks...and a pair of gloves... More on that later. For now, I must join the lambs and frolic in the sun!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Winning! Another pair of Panel Rib Socks (2012 FO #12)

Hi Blog! It's good to be back!* It's funny - last year I was hardly blogging at all but this year I have started to really look forward to checking in a few times a week and talking about all the things that have piqued my interest. Hopefully, other people find it (just a little bit) interesting too... 

Item No.1 of Interest this week: How does one take decent photos of one's feet?

The answer is not to wave one's iPhone in the air, pressing buttons at random. Trust me.

Last year I shared with you a Boneyard Shawl I made out of Jitterbug in Jay.  It was a really gorgeous shawl and I loved looking at it but, as a piece of clothing, it sucked. I don't know if it was because it was too small or because the Jitterbug was slick and smooshy, but every time I wore it it ended up on the floor. It was the most useless scarf ever. Then, a few months ago  I whipped up a pair of Panel Rib socks for my sister using Jitterbug in Fruit Coulis. I loved her socks, I couldn't wear my scarf...I knew that it was time to make some Panel Rib socks for me.

To avoid the pooling that happened on my sister's socks, I spiralled two alternating balls of this yarn. As you can see in the side-by-side shots, this was somewhat successful. 

The pattern is the same as for my sister's socks, and this time I managed to get some shots that showed the single ribbing 'seam' that runs up the back of the calf. Should I write up the pattern? I can see me making many more of these in the future.

These socks are gorgeous and comfortable and I love them. Plus, I now feel all frugal, thrifty and non-wasteful because I turned an unloved and unused object into a pair of much-loved and soon-to-be-much-worn socks. To quote Charlie Sheen, "Winning!"

* Ran out of Internet again. It is no coincidence that running out of Internet coincides with big deadlines, because apparently for me Big Deadlines = Must Look At Pretty Pictures. I think if blogs had been around when I was doing my undergraduate degree I never would have graduated.