Friday, December 30, 2005

knitting knitting knitting... and cooking and reading

It's hot, damn hot, very hot, disgustingly hot - yes it's hot - how hot... 37 deg C hot.

So no gardening possible, no outdoor activities possible at all.

I am sitting in a darkened house, curtains drawn, listening to the 'cricket on the radio' (ABC's jingle) on the ABC local radio

... and I am knitting. I have 4 projects on the go and at various states of completeness. All have reached points where they require a little bit of effort to progress - so today is the day!

Mohair Jumper - I'm making my own pattern with this one. The bottom edging comes from Nicki Epstein's 'Knitting on the Edge'. I am still not certain what if any edging I will do for the cuffs and neck - possibly a smaller triangle edging? I finished the back last night and now need to start the front by doing the bottom edging again - 9 'Sugar Drops'!

Teddy Bear All-in-One from the Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino book - This has been sitting in my knitting bag for about a month untouched. I have to sew up the shoulders before I can continue with the hood. This morning I sewed up one shoulder - it took me about 5 mins once I got started! I just have to summons up enough discipline to do the second one this afternoon and then I can get going again. I am knitting this out of DB Wool Cotton instead of Baby Cashmerino - I haven't used this yarn before but it doesn't seem to knit as evenly as other yarns? I am not entirely happy with the fabric, but hoping that it might even out a bit with some gentle washing and blocking.

Raglan Jumper from the Debbie Bliss Baby Knits Book - I am using a blend of 4 strands of hand dyed 2ply merino from Marta's Yarns. It is knitting really well and I love the colours - if I press on I might even finish this today or tomorrow (this assumes that I won't get distracted!).

I am not going to talk about the pumpkin hat - I don't know whether to rip or press on? Not happy.

I was also rather pleased with myself last night - I walked down the beach and had a swim with The Mil - and then came home and managed to make the Quiche Lorraine recipe fromClaudia Roden's 'Picnic' with her pastry recipe. It is very rich and needs salad to balance it out. But is excellent cold too - I have just had it for lunch!

I also might read today. Yesterday I received the latest copy of 'Hortus', which is a wonderful quarterly journal published by David Wheeler and Simon Dorrell who garden in Herefordshire. gave me a subscription for my birthday last year. I have been reading it for years, but some years I don't subscribe, so there are gaps in my collection - but I always imagine that I might buy backcopies - one day! This lastest edition is a northern hemishere 'Winter' one - a bit bizzare reading it in so much heat - but the articles are great. I have already finished the one on Ian Hamilton Finlay at 80, and am looking forward to the ones on Luis Barragin's garden and Catherine the Great's passion for gardening.

Hortus are also doing a New Year's Day flower count on their website. I am interested in participating - but is a garden in Melbourne eligible?

Also apologies for the picture quality - the only digital camera I currently own is my mobile phone - so will have to save my pennies and upgrade as soon as I can!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Post Christmas Shopping Odyssey

I have resisted the Post Christmas Sales (well so far anyway), but how could I resist a 'girls' afternoon visiting some of my favorite fabric and yarn shops around Melbourne?

I met my friend Felicity at Sunspun (they specialise in Kaffe Fasset fabric, Rowan and Debbie Bliss yarns and other delightful things). After about an hour of imagining all kinds of future projects, we both made our choices. Felicity was very restrained and bought Rowan buttons for the Jo Sharp cardigan she is knitting - beautiful and sensible. I was less restrained and bought:
  • the Rowan 'Cork' book that was heavily discounted because the yarn is being discontinued ( I have always wanted to knit the long cable jacket and sleeveless sweater and there is a great guy jumper 'Cal' that would look fantastic on Robert);
  • 2 balls of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (I now have 3 and cannot decide whether to make a baby jumper, socks for me or see if I can find more of the same dyelot and make something else???); and
  • 1 ball of Rowan Cotton Glaze (I now have enough to make one of the Debbie Bliss baby smocks - or I could buy another 10 balls and make the Guernsey with Bobble Edging from Debbie Bliss' "The Family Collection"??? More decisions!)

We then went and had delicious sandwiches at a cafe in Mailling Road (turkey, brie, semi sundried tomatoes and salad greens), followed by a quick visit to the patchwork shop around the corner where I bought some 50s looking fabric, out of which I think I will make a washing bag? and some more blue fabric for my blue quilt (it's still in the fabric collection stage).

Then we were off to Patchwork-on-Central - great fabric - where I bought some apricot polka dot fabric for the lining of the washing bag and some strawberry print fabrics for another quilt that is in the planning / fabric collection phase. Felicity bought a nice collection of Kaffe Fasset and other sympathetic fabrics.

After that we made a quick visit to Wonderflex just before closing time (another yarn shop) which had some really good Annie Blatt bargins that I managed to resist (still thinking about them!). Then back to Felicity's for tea and chocolate cake to recover and inspect our purchases!

What a lovely afternoon - full of good companionship and imagination.

Some more pictures of us!

Here is 'The Mil' looking really cute in one of her baskets - she has three - a day basket in the kitchen, a night basket next to my bed and an outdoor day bed (this hasn't stopped her from digging three holes at strategic spots in the garden - these are places she can secrete herself and view her world) .

Here is Robert looking like a bemused pirate - it is one of his looks!

And here is another version of me - taking self portraits with a mobile phone camera in an old mirror is a bit tricky really!

Holiday Food

Perhaps my most favorite Sunday morning and holiday breakfast is pancakes / hotcakes / piklets (closely followed by french toast; or baked beans and hashbrowns). All other days I have the same thing for breakfast - porridge with organic honey, sicilian red orange juice and black organic english breakfast tea. But I like to splurge!

Today I made a new recipe - Banana Hotcakes with Maple Syrup and Raspberries. It came from the December issue of 'Delicious' magazine and was seriously yum!

I am lying on the sofa writing this, drinking tea and trying to recover - that's the test of a really good holiday breakfast - amount of recovery time required!

My other favorite pancake recipes are:
  • Bill Granger's Buttermilk Pancakes from 'Bills Food' ;
  • Lemon Pancakes from Julee Rosso's 'Great Good Food'; and
  • the one I grew up with - from one of my mother's cookbooks - the piklet recipe from the 'Australian Women's Weekly Cookbook' - a great standard. And like everything from the Australian Women's Weekly Test Kitchen - almost fool proof!

The other food I am doing at the moment is "Left Over Cuisine"!

Yesterday I made two things:

Roast Vegetable Tart with the left overs from the Christmas Day roast. Along with the roast veges I also included some cherry roma tomatoes, fresh basil, goats cheese and parmesan. The pastry is just bought frozen prerolled puff. I know that is cheating - but I am on holidays!

White Bean, Tomato and Ham Soup - I used up half the left over ham from Christmas day! And also flavoured it with heaps of herbs and a little bit of chilli. Another scrumy dish, that I ate last night for dinner with fresh crusty bread.

Today - if I can manage it I plan to use up the final bits of roast meat by making a quiche lorraine with the remaining ham; and by adapting the chicken and almond pie recipe from Claudia Roden's 'Picnic' cookbook I will use the remaining turkey! I have every intention of making real pastry for both these things but time will tell whether my resolve holds on this point.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

My beautiful Chewton

Chewton was Robert's and my first dog. She was incredibly spunky - quick, agile and very bright. She died earlier this year at the age of 17. Not a bad innings. She is buried in my garden and is always in our hearts.

Here is Chewton as a young girl

Addicted to knitted knitting bags!

Knitting bags are essential for keeping together all the bits and pieces associated with the projects that I have on the go.

What could be better than knitted ones?

The first bag that I knitted was based on a Rowan pattern (Magazine No 30) I made it bigger (both wider and taller) and I added in the rows of garter stitch to add interest. I used Cleckheaton's Merino Supreme (in green - col 2222) - a 12 ply (normally a single strand knits as 16st over 10cm) - which I used double stranded.

The second bag I knitted uses the French Market Bag pattern from It's a great pattern. I made it bigger again (knitting bags are never big enough). I used another 12 ply wool from Marta's Yarns in Melbourne, which felted beautifully. Marta dyes her own wool and her shops (one in Malvern, the other in Melbourne's CBD) are real aladdin's caves filled with all sorts of treasures.

My friend Milawa - aka "The Mil", aka "Milly"

Just thought that I would introduce my friend Mil (and also practice posting pictures - which is a big deal for a Luddite like myself!). She is the friend that greets me at night with barks that translate to "where have you been?" and "I need a pat NOW!". She is the one I cuddle tight when I am sad or watching a scary movie. She is pretty diligent about her dog duties. I care for her very much. Currently she is lying on the floor panting - it is a really hot and dry 35 dec C day in Melbourne and she is not entirely happy having to deal with a fur coat. But I have promised her a walk down to the beach this evening and probably a swim too!

Boxing Day - a favorite

Boxing Day - after the rush and stress of the lead up to Christmas, the pressure of 'doing things right' on the big day itself - Boxing Day is such a pleasure - left overs and veging out - reading, knitting and watching the Boxing Day Test at the MCG - pure bliss.

So what am I currently knitting:
  • green mohair jumper
  • pumpkin baby hat
  • Debbie Bliss baby bear suit
  • Bebbie Bliss baby jumper

Once I have the photo thing under control I will post pictures!