27 February 2009

Puppy Ratty Scarf

Goodness, it's been a while since I wrote! I've just been writing madly on my next book, a kid's puzzle book for Hinkler Books, and feeling pretty depressed, I must admit - the fires are still getting me down, with flashbacks to what we went through in Canberra 6 years ago, plus various health problems at home (mainly Hubby), an old friend died, and my uncle is still in a worrying situation. I'm overworked, fed up and unwell. It's all too much sometimes.

On the plus side, I've proofread my Wiley book (it's starting to look real, the Graphic Dept have put it together). I printed it out for the first time last weekend (I've been trying to save paper and have worked almost entirely electronically up til now), and goodness, it's quite a pile, even double-sided! Two months til it's out in bookshops :)

We have caved in, and a year after Lily's death, have applied for a new chihuahua puppy, and hang the consequences (in terms of renting and the 'no pets' policy adopted by so many landlords). We miss having a dog too much, and I refuse to let the fact that we rent cripple our lifestyle that much! We need puppy cuddles!!!

She will be from Joviva Chihuahuas, just a few suburbs from us. This is the mummy - Kenya. The dad is of similar colouring, so I'm guessing the pups will also be short-haired and dark. Litter is due on 19 March!

It's been hot again - high fire danger impending this weekend, which is a worry for Victoria. Even the ratties have been needing some relief ... they nabbed Dotter's icy pole, and spent a wonderfully hilarious half hour licking the mangoey goodness!

My uncle has just finished 6 days of chemo for his returned leukaemia ... it's a very stressful and worrying time. The leukaemia has crossed the brain-blood barrier, so is in his brain now. It's not brain cancer, it just means that the blood in his brain now has leukaemia in it. He had an Ommaya Reservoir put in yesterday.

This is the Victorian Sampler Spring Scarf, from Knit Picks (here's the Ravlery link), which I'm making for my aunt, as she's going through a hell of a lot too. It's knit with Coolaroo Alpaca from Berrima, and I'm making it longer than the original pattern says. A quick knit.

Hope you're well, I'm sorry I've been absent online a fair bit - in April I'm taking the whole month off, my first holiday in well over a year, in fact I can't actually remember when I last had time off work .... and I can catch up then! I can't wait!!

ETA : We are allowed pets at our current house - so the new puppy won't be a problem here. We're just concerned about what happens when we have to move house one day ...

17 February 2009

Blankets of Friendship

This is the logo I designed over the weekend for the blankets for Victorian bushfire victims project.

We have a blog and Yahoo group now, as well as the Ravelry group. Anyone from anywhere is welcome to join in, even a single square is a help. Visit the Yahoo group's file area for web graphics, an information pack, posters, and flyers (also by yours truly).

Some knitting content *gasp* - these are Mitt Envy fingerless gloves ... they're knit in 4 ply, and a very quick knit. With cables (doesn't get any better!). These are in Patonyle hand-dyed by Dotter. They're a gift for someone, so I won't reveal who just yet.

The only modification I'd make next time around is to make the ribbed cuff longer - they're fairly short.

I haven't bought any online knitting stuff for an age - it was time for a treat. These are Harmony Cable Needles by Knit Picks (from Morris & Sons aka Tapestry Craft) ... so pretty, and the notches in them should help 'hold onto' stitches. Can't wait to use them (they arrived after I'd finished the cabled mitts above). Clearly an excuse to cast on a new project with cables!

My uncle is back in hospital, the leukaemia has returned. He starts chemotherapy again today :( Dotter is going all the way for the World's Greatest Shave - yes, she's going to shave all her hair off next month if she meets her target! If you'd like to help her reach her goal, and see her bald, head on over to her page.

11 February 2009

Comfort Packs

There are so many creative and thoughtful support programs coming into being in the past few days, to support those who have lost so much in the Victorian bushfires (and let's not forget those who have been through horrendous flooding in Queensland!). Coles (one of the 2 major grocery chains in Australia) is even donating all profits from this Friday's sales to the cause.

Most charities are overwhelmed with material donations, and are requesting just $$$.

On the crafting front there are blankies being knit, pouches being made for orphaned joeys and other wildlife, and a vast array more. To join in the Friendship Blankets Project check out this Yahoo group. They need 12" / 30 cm square knitted or crocheted squares, which will be sewn into blankets. Machine washable wool (8 or 10 ply) is the preference.

The one that has really touched my heart is Rainbow Comfort Packs for kids - thousands of children have lost their homes, and many lost family, friends and/or pets. Too much for a little person to have to bear. I'll be making some of these.

09 February 2009

No words

Words can't describe the horror of the Victorian bushfires in the past days. Over 100 130 160 deaths, hundreds and hundreds of homes lost, thousands of injured and homeless, thousands of acres of bushland destroyed ... and more.

It also brings back dreadful memories of the Canberra bushfires, which roared overhead and around us (literally) 6 years ago. Our heartfelt wishes go out to everyone and anyone affected by this tragedy.

There are satellite images of the fires on the MODIS web site ... select "Next" to see images after yesterday's ones. MODIS Terra gives good land images. Select 2 km or 1 km resolution, then once that page has loaded, click on Change Vector Options - select "fires + coast + borders" and click on "Submit".

There is news coverage here (for non-Australians who'd like to read more).

ETA : for those who'd like to do something from afar, you can make a donation by credit card to the Australian Red Cross.

07 February 2009

Zucchini Tomato Fax

I have to share this recipe with you - it's perfect if you're overrun with zucchini and basil, and is a fast, healthy, and delicious summer meal. It's a favourite at our place!

Pasta with Grated Zucchini


500g dry long pasta (linguine / curly strips / spaghetti etc)
1 cup olive oil (you can probably get away with a bit less than this, say 3/4 cup)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
600g zucchini, grated (about 4 large ones)
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (~2 minutes in the microwave, in a heat-proof bowl, stirring frequently)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese


Cook pasta, until al dente. Drain, keep warm. It's best to do this first, as the sauce comes together very quickly.

Heat oil in large pan (I like to use a wok), add garlic and zucchini. Cook and stir until softened. Around 5-8 minutes.
Add pepper and basil. Mix well.

Stir zucchini sauce through the pasta. Serve topped with pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Yummy!!

This quantity serves around 6.


Check out these little beauties - the first of my cherry tomato crop! The plants have got so big they've fallen over (I've tied them up in part now). More to come - nothing better than home-grown tomatoes.

I might have had a bit of a fight with my business fax machine ... in recent months the paper feed has stopped working, and then there was this little drama with the wretched fax film stuff ... I did try to roll it back on the rollers, honest, before my "Oh for fuck's sake" response kicked in:

I now have a multiple handset cordless phone (bliss), and will come up with different ways to survive without a fax machine (interactive PDFs, sending from my Mac, etc).

Trying to survive a record breaking hot day here - likely to go over 40ºC (104ºF). My annoying FIL has no air con at his place, so we're doing the right thing, and having him here all day. Mainly as a service to the local hospital - I'm quite sure they'll have enough demands from people with heat stress without adding FIL to their woes. And here's hoping for a cooler night and more sleep - 4 hours isn't really cutting it for me at the moment :/

On a more serious note - I had my first mammogram a week ago - it was a 'diagnostic with ultrasound' scan (not just a plain screening), which was worrying. The experience was much less awful than I'd been expecting (being gifted in the bustal region seems to help), and thankfully all is well. Phew bloody phew.

I just have non-cyclical mastalgia (probably a peri-menopausal thing). Not pleasant, but not cancer. If you're getting on (I'm mid-40s), have any breast cancer in the family (my maternal aunt), and have any changes, please please don't wait before seeing your GP. It's so much better to check it out sooner rather than later. Mostly it's fine, and it's better to know!

04 February 2009

The Cat's Meow

Hubby's Aunty Rona has long been associated with knitting, yarn, and fibre arts in general. When she was much younger she worked for Patons in Melbourne, and long time President of the Knitter's Guild NSW in her area of Sydney (I may have some of these details wrong, going from my faulty memory - but you get the idea!).

In recent years she has taken up freeform knitting & crochet - and these incredible tea cosies are some of her creations. She doesn't write patterns down, she just makes them up as she goes. So these are all unique!

I love this series of Ronald Searle inspired cat cosies :

This eggplant cosy is my favourite - Rona actually grew eggplants in her garden so she could then sketch and paint them from life, and from this she created this cosy - it has a lot of embroidery on it, as well as knitting and crochet, and padding inside.
This Christmas Pudding tea cosy was inspired by a similar design in Killer Tea Cosies by A and D Wallis.

There's another photo or two on this post from 2006. She is one talented lady!

All cosies designed and made by Rona E Warner, fiber artist.
Reproduced with permission.
Photos by my mother-in-law Chris.

01 February 2009

Medallion Tea

It was my little sister J's birthday a few days ago, and we had an afternoon tea for her today. I had some fun doing a bit of 'silly cooking'.

These are smoked salmon rolls - first you make crepes, then mix together cream cheese, lemon juice, mustard, and fresh dill. Spread each crepe with the creamy mix. Roll up some smoked salmon, place it on the edge of each crepe, and roll up. Cut into 2 cm lengths. This is the mad part - dunk a bunch of chives into boiling water for 1 second, then use them to tie up each little roll. Trim the ends.

This works much better and more easily than I was expecting! Isn't it cute?! The recipe made around 20 rolls. They were really delicious, too!

There was also Hummingbird Cake (banana, pineapple, walnut) - a fat-free version (Symply Too Good To Be True, Book 3). (No, I didn't make the roses, I copped out and bought them in a pack at Woolies.) There were also Cucumber Sandwiches, and Vegie Sticks with Dip. With tea in fancy china tea cups. It was lovely.

I gave her this Medallion Wrap (Rav link) - the first Norah Gaughan pattern I've made. I started this back in August 08, without a clear idea of who it was for, but in the past 2 weeks I realised it would be perfect for my sister, and put on a push on to finish it. It suits the colour of her eyes perfectly, and is the right sort of unusual style to appeal to her. She loves it :) She even wore it for about 5 minutes, which given the horrible summer heat wave we're in, says something!

I knitted the medallions onto one another, so there was no seaming at all. As the medallions are knit from the outside in, this was easy to do - simply cast on 96 minus 16 stitches per side being attached, and then pick up 16 stitches per side of the medallions you're knitting onto. In general this meant casting on 64 stitches, and picking up 2 lots of 16 stitches along 2 sides. I haven't added a border, although I think it might benefit from one for a bit more stability ...

I also found this gorgeous little Wedgewood milk jug at the delightful Minnamoora Antiques and Collectibles in Phillip (on Taph's recommendation, thank you!). It's Queen's Ware from the 1940s. Apart from reminding J of the Grecian urns at the British Museum (where she used to be a curator), it also replaces the tiny antique milk jug I broke at her house a few months back while doing the washing up (see, proof that chores are dangerous things ...). It pours beautifully, and is really delicate.

All in all a very lovely day. It's still such a treat to have J and her hubby and little boy over to visit, after 6 years of them being in London.

The Book is nearly really truly totally done - I've got about 2 days of editing to go (double checking the hints for each puzzle), and then THAT'S IT. The text, illustrations, and puzzles go to layout next. I'll see it again once the Wiley graphics team has done the layout, and it's looking like a real book - probably in early March? That will be my last chance to check it before it goes to press! It'll be in the bookshops in the USA and Canada at the end of April.

I've just started my next book, for Hinkler Books. It's called "Activity Mania", and will be a 128 page activity / sticker book for kids aged 5-8. It's a quick job - it has to be finished by early March. I have a stable of illustrators to boss around (nicely) which is a novelty for me - I can just say "Do a colouring-in picture of a cow wearing flippers", and they'll do it! Bwah ha ha ha - the power! ;)

I have to plan the book in detail, including 2 stickers for each page, and write around 70 pages of crosswords, word searches, mazes, picture acrostics, and other puzzles. The illustrators will do all the colouring-in, dot-to-dots, and illustrate my puzzles as directed. How cool is that? This book will be for sale in Australia, the USA, Canada, and UK, also around end of April.

And I'm having a month's holiday from mid March on ... if I can remember how to relax ... !