Monday, February 1, 2010


I woke early this morning and started thinking about things that I knew with certainty half a lifetime ago, but have only just started to understand. (Then, also, started thinking about the converse - things I didn't have a clue about back then and have only just come to realise).

On the first list, I have:
1.1 never give ground to bullies
1.2 not everyone is going to like you
1.3 there are only so many personality types out there

On the second list:
2.1 most people hate confrontation
2.2 it never hurts to ask the question

A lot of these are actually linked in together. This morning's ponderings were really about a number of conversations I have had over the past few weeks.

I recently had a run-in with someone who was illegally parked in my driveway (I was, in fact, trying to avoid the run-in - he had parked in such a way I could not get past and I asked him to move his vehicle). It ended after he threatened to smash in my car and screaming at me to 'f***ing get a life'. Not something I would wish to go through again.

Now, this guy was tall, young and very fit looking. It has only been since then that I have cast my mind back to when men have thought it OK to threaten a woman using their physical presence (though some of the worst bullies I have met have been women in the workplace who like to play head games.) It has happened to me any number of times, and I in the past I have been too naive at the time to call them out on it.

These days, not so much.

I realise I am really tired of people who think it is acceptable to behave like this - who think it is OK to bully people for whatever reason.

And I have learned the only way to deal with them effectively is to cheat.

With any game, there is the possibility you are going to lose. It is more probable that you will lose if the other party isn't playing by the rules. In essence, this is what bullying is. So to win, you also stop playing by the rules - but it is even better if you stop playing the game altogether. And by this, I mean don't buy into their crap.

This usually throws them for a loop - they have become used to provoking a certain response in people. It is a form of conditioning. Positive reinforcement is when you receive a reward for a certain behaviour; negative reinforcement (contrary to popular belief) is when they don't get that reward. So, if you react in the way they expect, you are reinforcing their behaviour; however, if you don't react in the way they expect, they start to wonder what the hell is going on.

And this also ties into 1.3, which is about personality types. The older I get, the more people I meet and I have found that I can often 'peg' a person fairly quickly. For example, I have recently met a woman who reminded me strongly of someone I have known in the past. I had also heard a number of negative things about this person before meeting them. As a rule, I would not necessarily use either of these factors to pre-judge, as I will always deal with a person on their own merits, but sometimes it does pay to keep it in the back of your mind. Needless to say, this person lived up to the hype.

(I also have a weird thing where I can almost always predict how I will get on with someone based on their name. For example, Matthew. I have known a great many, and there has only ever been one that I didn't really like).

So, back to my ponderings.

How should we deal with the people we meet in life?

Friday, November 6, 2009


(as one of my friends calls it).

I have a regular crowd of friends with whom I go to the movies on a regular basis. We usually go weekly, depending on what is out any given week, but the last time all of us were able to make it was a couple of months ago. Until tonight. These are all guys, and (I am astonished by this) tonight we went to see The Time Traveller's Wife (was only released yesterday here in Sydney). They had all read the book, but generally avoid anything 'chick flicky' like the veritable plague (OK, some of us did see The Proposal, but all agreed the best thing about it was the Alaskan scenery - I very carefully failed to mention Ryan Reynold's chest). Normally it is sci fi, action or horror movies on the menu (though I have so far escaped the latter). Re TTTW, Rachel McAdams is one of the very few actresses around I actually like (Cate Blanchett and Rachel Weisz being the other two)(my list of actors I like, by comparison, probaby runs to at least 10 times as many - don't ask me why). Eric Bana is always good to look at (not to mention super hot in Star Trek), though one thing that really annoys me about Australian actors who emulate American accents is they lower their pitch and lose enunciation. Having said that, I remember when Eric Bana was a comedian doing a skit show on one of the local networks, he was cute then, and I have to admit he is aging well. Funnily enough, the guys liked this movie more than I did. As is frequently the case, I had a few niggling issues with the film's internal logic (I know - with movies and TV there is the whole suspension of disbelief, and it IS a movie about time travel).

I came home to a clean house, today being the day my cleaning lady came. I feel horribly guilty about having someone clean my house, but figure I would rather pay someone to do it and feel guilty, than feel guilty about not doing it as well or as frequently as I should - and with two cats who shed copiously, vacuuming could occupy my life as a full time occupation if I let it (I had a friend who vacuumed twice a day because of dog hair).

Seriously, in my book life is just waaaay to short for housework.

About the extent of my domesticity is cooking and needlecraft - I cook because I derive joy from it, and I do various forms of needlecraft for the same reason, and not because I have to (for example, clothing repairs such as droopy hems are frequently addressed with either sticky tape or staples, until the point where it drives me nuts and I have to fix it properly - I think my record for a hem and tape was about 6 months). Also on the 'loathing housework, paying cleaner' front, I figure I work hard and long hours, and at the end of the day/week the last thing I feel like doing is housework, so I would rather pay someone to do it and not worry about it - and it frees up my time to do other things such as knit and cook. I should add that I do keep the kitchen clean, especially since I mostly cook for other people.

On the knitting front, I am currently cycling through about 4 of my current projects on a regular basis - the Phoenix Rose, the Unst stole, Goddess Knit's Mystery Shawl 14 and Honeysuckle (this last one is the project that I carry around with me, so I can do some at lunch, or any other time when I am sitting around waiting). As I have what I refer to as 'chronic startitis', I am always on the lookout for the next project. I desperately want to do the Queen Susan, but probably won't do so until the Unst is finished (thus giving me the incentive to push on and actually finish it), although I tend to only work on this one on weekends - the pattern itself is easy enough, but working with CashSilk after a long day, and in less than perfect light, is just borrowing trouble. I do plan to start a non-lace project, however. Inspired by the Harmonia's Rings Cowl(s) by Faculty Meeting Knitter (I am, to all intents and purposes, a Classicist, so there is a certain poetry I feel associated with this pattern), I have decided to do one of my own (OK, it is not a lace project, but I do plan to do it in laceweight. Sydney really doesn't get that cold, and I am not one to feel the cold all that much at the best of time, unless I am sick, so a heavier yarn would probably be overkill). Only problem has been - what yarn to do it in? I decided I would like a variegated cashmere or cashmere blend, and OMG how hard was it to find something I liked! Probably more to the point, something I liked and could afford. I was also being very particular about the colours, especially since it has to go with most of my clothes, and will be up against my face. The pattern requires about 360 yards. Some yarns I found I would need 4 skeins. One in particular I was looking at today had about 100 yds per skein, and the skeins were around US$50. Including postage, the cowl would end up costing me close to AUD$250.

For that much money, I would rather use stash yarn, then go out and buy a fabulous pair of shoes.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Phoenix Rose, Unst, et al

Part I

It has been a while, I know. Since last writing (blogging?) many things have been afoot, including starting my new job. I have been there now for 5 weeks, and absolutely loving it. I knew when I applied for the position that there was absolutely no question that I desperately wanted it. The last 5 weeks have flown by, and I am starting to hit my stride in terms of what I have to do in the job. It is a huge workload (for some reason, I almost always get jobs where there is a huge workload - there has only ever been one exception to this), but it is immensely enjoyable. My manager is an absolute delight to work with and, as always happens when I get along well with a manager, I can anticipate her needs, so often when she asks for something, I already have it in hand (I should mention that there are a lot of other things piling up, but when I am in a job that is a good fit, I usually find that synchronicity comes into play. Rather than going around chasing things and wasting my time, the solution/right piece of paper/phone call finds its way to me - I love it when this happens!). The department where I work is also one of my all time favourite subject areas, so it is also interesting. And even though it is big department, everyone is being really great (I actually knew about two thirds of the permanent staff before I started, so I knew how great they all were - some of them are also on my list of all time favourite people). So, as you have probably guessed, this whole 'new job' thing is working out just fine. As for my old job, ran into my previous manager the other week, and she totally blanked me twice (like, whatever!). And I have since found out that there will be redundancies, so I got out just in time.

Other stuff I have been doing is knitting furiously. I have about 13 or so projects on the go now, having just started knitting the Lilac Leaf shawl from 'Knitted Lace of Estonia'. I have only done about 50 rows so far, so I am still on the edging, and I have substituted a different motif for the second border, but otherwise it is going well (it has taken a while to get a motif I like that works - I went through about a dozen different ones, including starting to actually knit a couple of them before deciding they didn't work as well as I would have liked. The one I am doing now is not perfect, as it doesn't line up exactly with the first border, but I am probably going to be the only person who notices this, and sometimes too much symmetry can make it look too stiff). The yarn I am using is from The Gossamer Web on Etsy - it is Phoenix in the Peacock colourway, and it is seriously beautiful - not only to look at but to knit with. It is not my first gossamer weight that I have knit with (I am also working on the Unst stole from Heirloom Knitting in CashSilk), but as much as I like CashSilk, Phoenix is simply divine (and very forgiving. Some of this has been knitted and tinked 3 or 4 times, and you simply can't tell! And it is about 1000% times easier to tink - with CashSilk I have to use a pin, whereas with the Phoenix I can use the 2.50mm Symfonie (KnitPro) without almost no recourse to the crochet hook). I am also putting beads on this. By one of those happy accidents, I ordered a bunch of 11/0 Miyuki beads over the net, and when they arrived, one tube was a bright cerulean blue (totally not my colour - on the web they looked green - with an aurora borealis finish, to which I am hopelessly addicted). As it turns out, of all the beads I have, they work perfectly with the Peacock, even though they are blue and it is a green-blue. Weather permitting, I will eventually get photos up, but at the moment have to confess to preferring to knit over writing about knitting or taking photos

Part II (about one week later)

Well, the weather once again this Sunday is overcast, so no photos of new yarns. I did, through the week however, take some photos of the first edging and border of the Lilac Leaf stole (aka and heretofor thereafter to be referred to as Phoenix Rose). The photos are pretty terrible, but you can get an idea. I have started the leaf bit, and have done one pattern repeat.

It has also inspired me to pick up the Unst Stole again. Now that I have more familiarity with working with gossamer weight, Cashsilk is not so painful (tempted to say difficult, but that would be asking for trouble...) and am whipping along at the rate of knots (for me that is, probably excrutiatingly slow for others) (When I picked it up yesterday I had done 4 rows of the first pattern repeat of the centre - out of 380 rows, so about 1%. I am now up to row 16, which is 3.9%). It is starting to look like lace knitting. I also have the added incentive of the patterns for the Princess Shawl and the Queen Ring Shawl (both from Heirloom Knitting) sitting within my grasp just waiting... Not to mention the Queen Susan, which I hope to start next (but which I refuse to start until I finish something - I have so many things on the go), but also hope to knit in Phoenix, and it will take a while before I can afford it, as I have car rego due shortly.

I have also recently purchased two spindles, a top and a bottom, with a view to learning how to spin. I have a fantastic pattern from Vogue Knitting (Fall 2008, I think) for a cable cardigan, which woud be the perfect project to do with handspun. I have had a couple of goes myself, with the aid of youtube instruction, and sucked, so plan to go along to a session next weekend at the local spinners guild to learn properly (and suck in public). Eventually I hope to be able to spin fibre for lace knitting (a la missalicefaye) but am not sufficiently optimistic this will be any time soon...

(with apologies for all the long breaks between paras - blogger seems to have a bit of a mind of its own when it comes to formatting...)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

On why it is dangerous to be sick

I have been discovering of late how dangerous it is to spend time home, sick, with nothing to do...
Now, normally I would be thinking of food if I was stuck at home, however, at the moment, I am not particularly food-enamoured, so have focused on yarn instead.

Short version is I have been off work for weeks with a chest infection, which, according to the latest blood test, is in fact pneumonia.

I finally made it back to work for a semi-respectable amount of time this week. That is, I managed 3 days at about 5 hours each. That was quite enough. I found that the best indication that it was time to go home was when I got the shakes (in my legs, sitting down). Not to mention the fact that I had to quaff huge amounts of caffeine just to stay awake and semi function and I am still sleeping about 15 hours or so a day whilst in recovery mode.

But the good news for the week was I finally received confirmation that I have a new job (yay), which I start in two weeks.

What I am really dreading is all the work I am going to have to do before I leave. It kind of drives me nuts - I have been sick since early July, and seriously, most of my work (though must confess I did do some at home, even though I was told more than once not to) has been piling up (I will admit that the super urgent things have been done in my absence, but I am a bit pissy cos when some other people are off, their entire workload gets redistributed - when I am off, I have to do it all when I come back. At times like this, when I am so sick that I struggle to walk from the first floor of my home to the ground floor (and forget actually going back up again if I forgot something) it really isn't worth taking sick leave as I spent nearly all my time off stressing about how much work I had to do, and the fact that when I came back I would still have to do it all, and now I have two weeks in which to do about 10 weeks' work (hmmmmmmmm - why do I get the feeling that it just isn't going to get done?)

I had great hopes that this next post would be all about the yarn, but after the last few days of this week (ie when I was at work) which were absolutely beautiful sunny days, Saturday was overcast/raining. Which means I couldn't take photos of all the new yarn. Might have to wait for next weekend. And this comes back to where I started - I have LOTS of new yarn since I have been home and haven't had much to do (well, OK, I did do work and I took the time to get quite friendly with the mailman - seriously, anyone facing me at 8.30 am in jammies and/or bathrobe deserves friendly at the very least) but hit the net.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I have had 3 comments!!!

Can't believe it - went in today to discover 3 people have read my blog (1 I already knew about, but the other 2 were a surprise). More to the point, they read it and actually left a comment, so I am feeling very priveleged.

At the request of one of the commenters, I will now talk about my love affair with food / cooking. I love food - I will eat anything put in front of me (I do draw the line at rollmops for some reason, so I am very careful never to have them put in front of me), but other than that, absolutely anything - I am a "try anything once" kind of person in the food department. I do like to try new fruits or vegetables that I see at the grocer - this week's acquisition was black sapote, aka chocolate pudding fruit (other than the colour, I fail to see the analogy). Something I won't be rushing out to buy again, let us say.

My adventuresome nature also extends to my cooking. I read somewhere once that most people only ever cook something like the same 10 recipes, so I vowed to buck the trend. My main speciality is baking and desserts, but do also like cooking savoury, and in that department I do have repeat favourites. I make a killer lasagne and to-die-for osso bucco; tuscan bread soup; baked beans; ham hocks, cabbage with apple and caraway, the list goes on. Basically things I can put together without a recipe (not to say I don't use one if I want it to be 'just right', but often tweaked), usually requiring long, slow cooking, with a kick-ass result.

On the baking front, I make the absolute best brownies in the world (not my opinion, as it happens, as I am not a chocolate cake fan - though even I will concede they are amazing). I discovered the recipe years ago, and it has been a zealously guarded secret ever since (you know I really like you if I let you have my brownie recipe, and only then only if you promise never to give it to anyone else on pain of death). It is neither a cakey or fudgy brownie (for those brownie afficianados who classify their brownies) - it is in a league of its own. I am, however, happy to direct you to the second best brownie recipe in the world (although I do have a fabulous recipe - [BTW, did I also mention my brownie recipe is the easiest in the world - the hardest part being lining the tin and there is also next to no washing up afterwards, which makes it a triple winner as far as I am concerned ]. I am never loathe to try other brownie recipes. Most of them are truly abysmal...) (back to second best brownie recipe...) It can be found on the blog site of one of my favourite authors, Robin McKinley (I will try and put link in here - not sure if it will work.... (if you don't know her already, and have the inclination, do try her books. It is one of my missions in life to tell everyone what a fabulous author she is, oh, and while I am at it, check out Diana Wynne Jones. Feel free to email me if you would like title recommendations).

And just to tempt the knitters out there - I hope my next blog will include a gallery of some of my latest yarn acquisitions - some of them are truly truly gorgeous.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


We are presently in the depth of winter, and every year I look forward to the return of spring.

I love winter (July being my birthday month and all - winter means I get presents!). I love the cold and am quite happy wandering around in short sleeves, much to the annoyance of others (I get lots of comments eg "I am getting cold just LOOKING at you"). This year, winter has kind of passed me by. I don't know if it is the new place I have moved into, that it doesn't get cold like the old one (I literally moved 2 doors down, so microclimate-wise it should be the same), or if it is that this year just hasn't been cold. Most mornings on the short walk across the carpark to the office it is only just registering on my 'fresh' scale - a little nippy, but nothing to worry about.

But every year I can't wait for the arrival of spring. The coming of spring for me is heralded by my sighting of the first spring blossom. This year it was a flowering quince when out driving the other day. Now that I have seen one, they are popping up all over the place. I love looking at flowers - the magnolias are in full flush at the moment, and looking glorious, camellias seem to be just finishing, and have seen some azaleas as well (not sure when they are supposed to be flowering, cos what I have seen is pretty scant).

Spring to me is the time of rebirth - I am always reminded of the myth of Persephone, where spring is the time she returns to the earth from the underworld. Every year I hope that I fall in love in spring. It is the perfect time of year for it. The air carries the scent of flowers and the promise of warmer weather. The days get longer and the colours of the world seem brighter as the new, fresh green leaves start to appear on the trees.

I am lucky that where I work is essentially a large parkland, with a lake. I get to go down to the lake often and spend time with nature. There is a small patch of bush near the lake, and in spring all the native flowers come out in bloom. One of my personal favourites is Pittosporum, which has this wonderful heady scent. But this little patch also has other gems such as purple flag, and a couple of years ago I found a delightful ground orchid (nearly trod on it, being my version of discovery).

Spring also means lots of baby birds (I absolutely love ducks and geese - in the pet kind of way, not the eating kind of way - in fact I refuse to eat them, as I would refuse to eat cat or dog). And the lake is home to lots of water birds, which means it gets lots of baby water birds in spring, especially the ducklings, which are so cute. We have some roads running through the site, and I have been known to stand in the middle of the road and stop traffic to allow mummy and daddy duck, and baby ducks, to cross the road unharmed. (I heard from one of my friends the other day that some of his colleagues refer to the 'crazy duck lady' - can't help wonder if it is me they are talking about...)

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Welcome to my first blog entry. It is hard to know where to begin.

Firstly, I plan this to be a blog about what goes on inside my head, stream of concsiousness stuff, but not necessarily all of the time. Sometimes I will have things written in my head before they get to the keypad, other times I will be typing fresh, such as now.

There are a few things I have in mind for the first entry, but as I still hope to have something to say in the future, not all of it might get said.

A little about me - I bake (& cook), sew, knit, read, and work (to pay for all that came before). Some of this blog will talk about these things, especially baking and knitting, which is my current obsession.

It started off a couple of months ago. I finished knitting the sleeves to the aran jumper I had been knitting since 1996 for my now ex-husband (good for me, I get to keep it, and if I ever actually do the finishing bits, it will be gorgeous) (I have read elsewhere that knitting a jumper for your boyfriend is almost like the kiss of death, well, it worked on my husband too...). Time to cast about for a new project, and really wanted to do aran again, but a proper, traditional style one, with traditional patterns. Now, this is when I started the wool (aka yarn) hunt. I live in Australia - do you think I could find a local yarn of 12ply in a natural shade? I spent days scouring the net and came up blank (BTW have since found some but have totally moved on)(and get used to the parentheses - I use them, dashes and ellipses a lot... though you have probably noticed this by now).

I ended up deciding upon a cable sweater by Erika Knight which I decided to do in Rowan Romance. It was a chicken and egg thing - I fell in love with the yarn around the same time I found the book, but took me a while to put the two together in my head.

It was while I was casting about for a pattern for the Romance when I purchased the first copy of the British magazine 'The Knitter'. There was a jumper in there that had some cable, and I planned to do a mish mash of this with an existing pattern I had (I should mention here, just because I took a while to finish my previous project [and I should also mention that I am one of life's great unfinishers - I have an embarressing quantity of patchwork and cross stitch UFOs] that I did in fact have an existing pattern. This had been for a cable jumper that I knitted during immediately prior to the abovementioned aran, and it took me about 2 weeks to knit [much to the astonishment of my family that I actually finished something]) but then again, it was 12 ply (and a very thick one at that) and the cable was really easy (unlike its successor).

So, back to 'The Knitter'. This was all very serendipitous, cos around the same time I had found some Kidsilk Spray in Tea Rose on ebay at a good price (much better than the prices in Australia, even with international postage. Same goes for patchwork fabric - I would love to buy local, and I do when I can, but honestly, by the time you buy it and pay for postage within Australia [or petrol and tolls if you are driving, not that I know of anywhere within driving distance that stocks it, and I live in Sydney, so if you were going to get it anywhere, you would think here would be the place], it can be almost double the cost.) One of the patterns in 'The Knitter' was for (another) Erika Knight - a lacy top in Kidsilk Haze (funnily enough, this too came from Glamour Knits, which is the book from which the Romance pattern was sourced). So I started knitting the lace sweater.

And frogged.
And knitted.
And frogged.
And knitted.
And frogged.
And knitted.

As you can tell, I got off to more than 1 false start. It had been a very long time since I had done anything like a lace pattern in knitting, so the 'yo' versus 'yf' took a bit of getting used to. Anyone who has knitted with Kidsilk Haze or Spray may commiserate on how difficult it is to frog (I know tink everything [even with lifelines I don't frog - I find it too annoying], and for this item I put in lifelines every 6 rows and obsessively check the pattern about 2-3 times per row, just in case). The biggest challenge was going from 14ply on 12mm needles to 2ply on 3.00mm (well, 3.25mm, but more on this in a later blog, possibly). That was funny - I couldn't hold the needles and the yarn in my hands at the same time and actually produce anything.

In addition to learning to knit with smaller yarn and needles, there was a whole vernacular that I had never encountered before - tink? frog? lifeline? the abovementioned yo? - which I discovered when tootling on the net trying to find bits and pieces.

One of these was the website of missalicefaye (and apologies for no links. I am a bit of a novice at the whole web etiquette thing, so not sure if I should link within a blog [and I can say from previous blog reading that etiquette does seem to mutate according to the community {for want of a better word} it engenders ] I am also only just in the infancy stages, as you can tell, so I think for now plain text will do, and I can work on fancy stuff as I go along). Now, I fell in love with her beautifully knitted shawls from minute one (it was actually longer than that - my first recollection of her site, and I don't know how I ended up there, was a picture of the Unst Stole before it was blocked, then relentlessly hunted the site until I worked out what it was - so in fact I actually fell in love with a small mound of white knitted lace).

So, back to the serendipity thing. Everthing kind of formed a confluence, pointing me in the direction of lace knitting. I have become obsessed. I love yarn, I love colour, I love fiddly things I can do with my hands while watching television, I love being able to go online and spend days looking at yarn and deciding what to buy, or what patterns there are out there. I should put in here a hero-worshipping genuflect in the direction of Ravelry (once again, no URL - sorry). You guys totally ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is not only a brilliant resource for knitters (and I do mean brilliant. One of my friends is a prodigious developer, and from him [and my own knowledge of building databases] I have had a small peek into the window of what it takes to build a site such as yours and OMG you have done such fantastic job). In the space of about 3 months I have gone from, well, basically nothing (the aran took so blinking long I don't feel I am qualified to refer to myself as a *knitter*, although I have been able to knit for almost forever, and I did potter around with fancy patterns as a child) to obsessive lace knitter. My stash is impressive (and growing, like my visa bill...) and I have already decided what to do next (today anyway - decision will probably be different tomorrow when I discover a new yarn or pattern...).

Present project is BadCatDesigns 'Summer Sampler Study' in Claudia Silk Lace, Pistachio, for those who are interested. This yarn was originally purchased to make a shawl for my mother, but had a few incidents when transforming from skein to ball ie about 30 hours of unknotting (purchased swift immediatley upon completion of ball, so I never have to go through that again!), so decided to knit this for myself instead with the yarn that is now just a little the worse for all that untangling... (and purchased 2 additional skeins for shawl for mother - I think I got the last 2 in captivity).

Well, this should mark the end of my first blog - I feel I have blathered on for quite long enough. As I predicted, I didn't actually achieve what I set out to talk about, and got seriously side-tracked - I didn't even get to mention my equal obsession with silk, especially silk yarn, and baking, or other things like my cats (yes, another knitter with cats - who'd have thought), books... (more on these in the future, I hope).

Bon Chance