Thursday, 29 December 2011

Oh, just one more thing...

The Epic Aran Afghan.

Dude, it is awesome.

Of course, that's just my opinion, but you can judge for yourself:

Here's a pic of the whole thing (minus the bit hanging over the fence) outside:

Pretty, huh? So, time for the deets. I used only 30 of the 40 balls of yarn I thought I would need, meaning I used about 2,634 metres of yarn, not the expected 3,418 metres. Quite a difference! Although, I now have a sweater-lot of yarn left over, so will be scouring the patterns on Ravelry for something I can make with it. Bonus! I used John Q Mia yarn, a 10 ply yarn sold by Knit World - purchased at the Wellington branch. I don't think they sell it any more though. It's a composition of 29% merino, 25% acrylic (gasp!), 15% alpaca, 11% corn, 8% cashmere, 6% silk and 6% angora. Quite a mixture (probably what they scraped off the factory floor) but to be perfectly honest, its lovely and soft. I found it delightful to knit with, and have a hat and scarf already made with it. It is very hard-wearing, and comfortable. Very minimal itch-factor.

The pattern, of course, is the Burridge Lake Aran Afghan. Full credit to Anna Dalvi for writing such a fantastically beautiful pattern. I loved knitting every inch of this afghan... okay, so I may have grumbled occasionally about the endless cables, but this pattern was a favourite of mine the second I saw it on the 5th July 2009, and sat in my list of things to knit until I decided to bite the bullet and cast it on. The cast on date was 21st September, and I officially finished it on the 22nd December - three months. Not too bad if I do say so myself ;-) According to my Rav notes, the yarn cost $104 for all 40 balls, which means the cost of this afghan was the low, low price of $78. Bloody excellent.

It was gifted to my mother-in-law on Christmas day. For some reason, the second I saw this afghan pattern and fell in love with it, I knew I would be making it for her. I've never changed my mind about that, so although I'd quite like to keep it, I was more than happy to hand it over once it was finished. There's only one thing that makes me a little nervous.

Please, please Alison, for the love of all that is holy, keep it away from the cat!!!

That is all.

So how was your Christmas?

I had a good Christmas, and once again got spoilt rotten :-) My parents got me a new food processor, something I've wanted since we left ours behind in Napier over four years ago. Now that I have a decent sized kitchen, I'll actually be able to use it. I plan on cooking a bit more now, and may even get back into baking. I'm convinced that the type of kitchen you have determines how much you cook. I had no real want to cook at the last place, and avoided baking as much as possible, simply because the kitchen was so tiny. Not only was there minimal bench space, there was only a half sized oven and two cook tops. Very difficult to feed a family of four in a kitchen like that, believe me! Since moving to this place, I actually want to cook, and am enjoying flicking through recipe books and magazines, thinking of things to make. Something I haven't really done in about a year.

I also got some herb pots and seeds, and planted them this afternoon. According to the instructions, I should start seeing results in about ten days. Hmmm, we'll see. I'm notoriously bad with plants. Still, I'm willing to give it a go. If all goes to plan, we'll have lovely fresh herbs to go with the fresh pasta Deane will be making with the snazzy new pasta machine his mother gave us. Yum!

Surprisingly, I haven't done one single stitch of knitting since I finished the afghan last Thursday. Not. One. I did finish Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel, and read another book as well. I have to say, having an e-reader is just fabulous. No longer do I need to make sure I have enough books packed in the suitcase (taking up valuable clothing space) - I have all the books I need on one small device. And if not? It only takes a minute to download one. Brilliant. So brilliant in fact, I took great joy in giving an e-reader to both mums for Christmas. We can still share books! Yay!

The kids got some cool presents too - the most used so far I think would have to be the two books Santa brought them - Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and the sequel, Rodrick Rules. X has already read the first and is part way through the second, and T started the first book yesterday on the way home. I'm ridiculously happy about this. I always wanted my boys to be readers - I think they just might be. I'll definitely be getting the other books in the series to add to their collection (and I'll be reading them myself of course ;-p)

Must dash, Deane wants to order dinner online. I hope you have a good New Year - ours will be relatively quiet, as usual. Fine with me :-) See you next year!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Still plodding

Apologies for the involuntary absence - our internet took longer to sort out than expected. Temporary solutions just didn't allow for extended browsing jaunts, much less blog-land updates. However, we finally have our permanent internet sorted out, and I have a little time available for a posting.

We have only three sleeps to go until Christmas day. All I have left to do is sew half of one border onto the Epic Aran Afghan, and weave in all the ends. Alllllll the ennnnnnnds. There are many. Still, I managed to knock out a good chunk of the border knitting yesterday and finished them early afternoon, so was able to block them last night. Thanks to some decent summer-type weather, they were dry by mid morning, and I've sewn on one border. I'm procrastinating about the other, but have half done. The ends I think I'll do tonight in front of the idiot box.

The plum pudding is in the freezer, the peppermint bark and shortbread are all secure in their cellophane bags, the crystallised ginger is sitting pretty (or not so pretty, since crystallised ginger is kinda ugly looking if you think about it) in jars, and I've well and truly finished the Christmas shopping and wrapping. Can't say the same for Deane of course, but that is none of my concern. He's always been one to finish things at the absolute last second, so I'm not going to worry about it (read: trying to ignore things I can't do anything about, in the hopes of avoiding hyperventilation).

He has organised transport for us to Napier, since our car is still out of action (damned meanies, breaking into our car at the most inconvenient time possible), and luckily it has plenty of boot space, so we can not only fit all the Christmas presents in it for the trip down, there might even be some room to fit my favourite rocking chair in for the trip back - I've been looking forward to being able to sit in it for a while, and I have just the spot in our new place. It'll be great to be able to sit in it and read or knit the day away. Not quite the same as the spot it used to reside in, next to the pot-belly stove at my husband's childhood home, but good all the same.

I have had no chance in the last few weeks to go for a run, and won't for some time yet, so have decided (because I'm a lazy cow) to leave it until the kids go back to school in February. Thankfully, I have a good metabolism so I won't pile on the weight (in fact, my weight hasn't changed at all in the last four years), but I am a little concerned about my cardiac fitness, which is undoubtedly taking quite a dive right about now. Still, I know I can put in the effort to work it back up again, it'll just take a little time. February, there's no hurry to get here, mm-kaaaay?

The timer is about to go on the stove, letting me know the baked potatoes are done, and X is sitting right next to me, patiently waiting for the computer, so I better go, but I just wanted to leave you with a few colourful pics I've taken over the last week. Have a Merry Christmas, a wonderfully fun-filled New Year celebration (if I don't see you before then), and I'll post pics and deets of the finished (in time! Hurrah!) afghan next week. Enjoy!

Bought these the other day at the supermarket. After the weekend we had moving in, I needed a little cheering up! These hit the spot nicely :-)

The pohutukawa I see outside my window every day. Gorgeous!!

A simple, yet beautiful and delicious snack, to go alongside freshly baked gingerbread loaf on a lovely Sunday morning with friends.

And this picture again. Why, you ask? Just because its funny ;-)

It is 9.47pm, and I have officially completed the afghan!!!!! Oh, joy of joys!! I am so happy and proud :-) Sadly, there is nobody to share it with as Deane is still at work, and the boys are in bed asleep. Oh well...

Tomorrow, packing and washing. But most importantly, photos of the finished afghan before wrapping it ready for Christmas. Three sleeps to go, remember!

Phew! Now that mammoth project is out of the way, I feel an itch to cast on some of these (thank you Yarn Harlot!). Alas, I don't have the yarn for them :-( Plus, its summer. I'll add them to my to-do list...

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

It's never easy, is it?

So we moved this weekend. I thought I was organised. Guess not. The actual move itself was pretty smooth-sailing, except of course for the bits that Deane had anything to do with (ie: packing the stuff in his 'office' etc - he left it until the movers were there moving everything out of the apartment. I was at the new place by then, so for all I know, the movers did it for him...) The new place is great - so much more space, storage room, everything is great. Except there was no hot water (the electrician had failed to install a rather essential wire in the fuse box); our new fridge had a hernia the first night and threw the RCD so we had no power for a while, until we unplugged the fridge. Then we just had no fridge until the next afternoon; the downstairs bathroom sink had no cold water (turns out we just needed to turn on the tap thingee on the pipe under the sink - duh); the TV aerial can't pick up analog channels, and we've lost the remote for the Freeview box - still waiting for the aerial guy to track down a spare remote so he can reprogram the box for us. It would be nice to be able to watch TV again, even if its just to entertain the kids for a while.

At seven his morning, I was standing at the kitchen sink and saw the rubbish truck whizz by. In the hopes that they hadn't done our street yet, I went out the gate to check, and discovered some ::insert expletives here:: had smashed two windows in our car and ripped out the ignition. Oh, and yes, the rubbish truck had already done our street, so now I have a full rubbish bin for another week.

Once, just once, I would like to move to a new place and not have any problems. Is that too much to ask?!?!?

Deep, calming breaths...

The kids are loving the proximity to school. We're all enjoying the novelty of being able to walk across the road instead of having to drive. I stand on the corner and wave them goodbye in the mornings, and meet them on the same corner in the afternoons. They cross the road on their own. Hopefully soon I'll be able to say goodbye without leaving the house, and wait inside the gate for them to come home in the afternoons (and just secretly spy on them out the window). I don't think I'm quite ready to let go that much yet though. Baby steps.

Sadly, with all the craziness of the move etc, I didn't manage to finish the third panel on the Epic Aran Afghan. Happily though, I only have two repeats left! I may be able to get those done tonight (especially since we have nothing to watch) and get to blocking them tomorrow. I can't wait to see it all put together! Oh dear, I hope I can let go of it once its finished, I really do intend to give it away but I'm not sure if I'll be able to... Perhaps I can visit it every now and then, so it won't really be like its gone...

The Christmas tree is finally up, the presents are laid below, and I can see beautiful pohutukawas outside my window. I must get a photo to show you - in the next few days, I promise. It really is a lovely kiwi Christmas icon, the pohutukawa. Such striking red flowers! Very festive.

I hope your week has gone a little smoother than ours, and you're looking forward to the Christmas break. Just a few more things to do myself. The boys finish up at school next Tuesday, so I'm extra glad we have space for them to run around in now. And of course, the school playground across the road if they get bored ;-)

Enjoy the rest of your week!!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Same again, thanks

This has been my view every day for the last week:

The only thing that changes is the length. I should be glad of that at least...

As of right now, I have knit 17 of the required 24 pattern repeats on the third and final panel (which is a mirror image of the first panel). The end is in sight! Just seven more repeats to go, and the two borders for the top and bottom, which are only 20 stitches across and won't be as long as the panels. This afghan has been a bit of a challenge - the pattern itself is not hard, but the sheer enormity of the project, and the added difficulty of fixing mistakes that any munson could avoid by paying attention have made this a mission and a half. I have thoroughly enjoyed knitting it though, and have to say I'm rather proud of it so far. I can't wait to see it all put together!! It will need to be blocked though, which will have to wait until we've moved into the new place and I can't knit the border pieces until that's done (or at least can't finish them). Still, at the rate of two repeats a day (and enough of today left to get one done), it will take me until Friday to finish the panel. We move on Saturday, and if I'm organised enough, I can get blocking on Sunday. With only 2 1/2 weeks left until Christmas, I have to say I'm rather relieved. I think I'm going to make it!

Oh, and btw, if you receive this gift and don't want it for whatever reason (and please be honest - some people just don't dig Aran, I get it), believe me, I'd be happy to take it back no questions asked ;-) Just sayin'...

The completion of the afghan has come at the expense of many other planned projects I have to admit. I wanted to knit socks for my sister, something for the boys' teachers (who've each had one of my children for a year and a half - they deserve something lovely), I had cushion covers to sew (also for my sister), a shawl (which is half done, maybe I can still finish it in time...), and oh, so many other things!! Still, I'm happy with the presents I've got everyone this year, and my sister's birthday is in March, so I can always knit the socks and sew the cushion covers for her then. The teachers are getting yummy goodies from Lush, and the shawl was an 'extra' present anyway.

Sadly, my running has taken a bit of a hit as well. With the kids sick quite a bit this term, and Deane so busy with work and often away, I missed a lot of chances to hit the pavement. My 15km achievement seems to have been a one-off. I've managed only two runs in as many weeks, and they've been a measly 8km and 6.5km respectively. I have learned that fitness is a hard won thing - you need to earn it, and work to keep it. I'll keep digging away at it for now, and when the kids go back to school next year, get into a better routine. At least, that's my plan. We all know what happens to my plans...

I've rather enjoyed reading the Yarn Harlot's suggestions to non-knitters about what to buy their knitterly friends and relatives, particularly the first one - here. It's a must read. She's updating her blog every day with new ideas for knitters. So many cool things!! And the best part? The wonders of the internet have made it all accessible. I've really got the hang of this internet shopping lark - several of my family's Christmas presents were bought over the net this year. Oh, such fun. I love making things for people, and I love thinking of things to give to friends and family that I think (hope) they'll love.

Christmas. A time for getting together and enjoying great food and good company, with fantastic summer weather and lots of relaxing. Ah, yes. Next week's plan (apart from finishing the afghan of course) - plum pudding, shortbread, peppermint bark, and home made crystallised ginger. Mmmmm, yummy. Did I mention that Christmas-time has good food? I have to say, there's something about my mother-in-law's roast veges that I absolutely love. Whether its anything to do with being cooked alongside turkey and lamb, I can't be sure. But I look forward to them every year. Fresh, juicy, delicious strawberries and cherries!! Oh my. Hawkes Bay has the best berries, without a doubt. Breakfast with the fan-dam on Christmas morning, making all the kids wait not-so-patiently to open their presents... I'm looking forward to Christmas this year. I think our little faux tree will be going up on Sunday. Maybe Saturday. Depends on how well the move goes.

I hope you're looking forward to the 'silly season':

Mwaaahahahahaha!!! Yes my husband is a dork, but he's a happy dork, and I love him.

In the mean-time, for me at least, it'll be more of this:

Psst, just so you know, I edited about 20 million exclamation marks out of this post before publishing it.

You're welcome.