Friday, 4 December 2015

The non-blog. Sorry.

Hi, my name is kreachr, and I have been absent from this blog for nearly two months... ugh, can you believe it?  This year has flown by!

I started a post some time last month, but never finished it.  Slacker.  Life has been pretty full-on, but not particularly busy at the same time.  Know what I mean?  I finished study for the year, then waited not-so-patiently for my results.  My third B+ (sad face) and another A+, helped along by a final assignment awarded 96%.  Not bad ;)  What I find amusing is that the A+ was for my most dreaded paper - Project Management.  Well, whaddaya know?  Not so scary after all!  Two more papers to go...

The boys had their 11th and 13th birthdays last month.  Dear god, I am the mother of a teenager.  Please send help.  They finish school in just over a week, 'graduating' primary school and intermediate, before embarking on a new chapter of their lives, at intermediate and high school.  Fun times.

We had our family holiday in Queenstown, where Deane and I completed a half marathon together.  I'll admit it was the slowest half marathon I've ever run (or rather, mostly walked) but I did it beside my husband, who was completing his first ever running (walking) event.  We scraped in just under his target time of three hours (official time 2:59:29) and I couldn't be prouder of him.  We even crossed the finish line hand-in-hand.  Awwww...  I'd post a pic, especially since I look fresh as a daisy, but Deane looks... not so fresh.  He probably wouldn't appreciate it.  Don't worry sweetie, I got your back :)  Here's my favourite holiday snap instead:

About to go on the Queenstown luge!  Then visit the cafe after one ride.  Deane and X had fun - they got all the extra rides that T and I didn't use.  At least T gave it a go, I suppose... 

My vegetable garden is growing incredibly well.  Not everything has worked out perfectly, and I must have the world's slowest growing zucchini plant with the world's tiniest zucchinis.  Seriously, everyone keeps going on about how zucchinis grow ginormous when you turn your back for a minute and you can't get rid of them fast enough.  I have picked a grand total of four zucchinis from my plant, and none of them have been over ten centimetres long.  I've hand pollinated, I've left them to grow bigger (they don't)... I am actually disappointed I don't have mountains of them.  Oh well, maybe next year.  I'll try a different variety, make sure I add plenty more compost and sheep manure to the soil before planting, and fertilise regularly.

We have buckets of lettuce (yes yes, I planted too much), and are enjoying the small amounts of beans, carrots and strawberries we've had so far.  My mizuna bolted so I pulled it out, the red leaf mustard is too bitter for my liking (I'll dig it in once its finished growing), and the earwigs annihilated my kai laan, spinach and bok choy to the point where I didn't want to even attempt to salvage it.  My silverbeet is severely stunted, but the spaghetti squash is going great guns.  I've got truss tomatoes growing slowly but surely, and the corn is getting taller by the day.  My apples actually look like apples, and I can't wait for them to be ready!  The boys named the Pacific Rose apple tree Thomas, and Deane named the Pink Lady tree Colette.  They're keeping Bob, Charles, Edward and Joseph Lavender company ;)  I guess it's my fault for starting the trend, when I named the worms Frank and Ethel.  They're also doing well, in case you were wondering.  I'm mostly looking forward to the potatoes, kumara, peas, broccoli and cauliflower.  Ooh, and the eggplant and cucumber.  Patience, patience...  I love love love the phacelia and borage, and the contrasting colour of the nasturtiums.  I can't wait for the dwarf sunflowers, cornflowers and forget-me-nots to grow too.  So exciting!  Gardening is fun!  Except for the earwigs and leaf miners, blergh.
And I thought I couldn't grow anything...

The rhubarb is at war with the cabbages for space, and the petunias are trying to hold their ground in the same part of the garden.  It's a riot of colour.  I'm loving it.

Cabbages, rhubarb, camellias and petunias.  To the left is the zucchini with giant yellow flowers, to the right is the black petunia.

I have finished my Christmas shopping, and just have a few bits and pieces to finish up.  I'm spending the next week in the school library, helping out as much as I can before T leaves the school.  Hmm, I wonder if the intermediate or high school libraries need helpers...?

I applied for a job in a high school library, but didn't get it.  The person who did left an opening at another high school library, so I applied for that job.  I'm not holding my breath, but you never know :)  Otherwise next year will be filled with finishing my Degree (and graduating for my Diploma which is officially complete), training for the Hawkes Bay marathon in May, and volunteering in libraries and other places while looking for jobs with suitable hours and throwing my CV at them in the hope that somebody will hire me.

Hopefully it won't be quite so long between updates next time!  I think it's about time I got out onto the trails again, so I can snap some pretty pictures of the views and make y'all jealous ;)

If I don't get back here before Christmas, I hope you have a good one filled with friends and family, lots of laughs, love, good food and plenty of fun.  What are you hoping Santa brings you?  All I want for Christmas is the aforementioned friends/family/laughs/love/food/fun.  Perhaps some of these or these.  And maybe, just maybe, some new running shoes ;)

Monday, 12 October 2015


I have made the rather difficult decision to drop down to the half marathon distance for Queenstown.  I've come to the realisation that studying two Level 7 papers just does not allow the time needed for full marathon training, while maintaining a sane and non-exhausting lifestyle.  Also, I'm pretty sure my left knee just wouldn't handle it.  Getting into the longer distances of late has brought about the need, once again, to tape my knee for anything over about 12km-15km.  I value my life, my sanity, my maintainable energy levels, and my ongoing mobility too much to want to screw it up for the sake of an extra 21km.  The half marathon will be just as beautiful and fun, and we're going to be in Queenstown for over a week so there will be plenty of opportunity to go sightseeing before and after the race.  Deane will not be able to run the marathon, and there's no walking option for that distance, so we'll both be switching to the shorter distance.  And anyway, there's always the inaugural Hawkes Bay marathon next May that I've already registered for if I decide I'm still keen to give the full marathon distance a go.  In other words, I'm just starting to feel lazy and I'm now trying to make excuses justify my decision... Nobody else cares that I won't be running the full, right?

Moving on... my front garden vegetable plot continues to expand.  The sickly cabbage tree has been removed, which has allowed more space for vegetables of course ;)  I had plans of putting a kowhai or kakabeak plant in there, but we might leave that for next year.  Also, Deane made the very good point that it would take ages to grow and by the time it was big enough to enjoy, we wouldn't live here anymore.  The downside of renting...

We have added a dwarf Pacific Rose apple tree to our garden though - that can live in a pot and come with us when we move.  Although I don't envy the poor lads that'll have to transport it!  I would've preferred a nectarine tree (I luuuuuuurve nectarines!!) but I'm the only one that eats them and a whole tree for one person seemed a bit silly.  Maybe one day when we have our own place...

I have enjoyed my first meagre harvests of the year - oyster mushrooms and radishes!

We ate most of these in an aubergine, leek and oyster mushroom orzo with a creamy white wine sauce - it was okay, if a little rich (I subbed soy cream for the creme fraiche).  We've had another batch since then, which ended up in some fried rice one night, and roasted tofu and veges another night.

These little beauties I had all to myself in a roasted radish, spinach and almond salad with balsamic coconut vinaigrette

In any case, here's how the garden was looking first thing this morning before the sun made it's appearance:

The birds have taken a few bites out of my cabbages, zucchini and lettuces, and munched into a radish, so I've covered the garden boxes with bird netting.  The seedlings in the garden around the fences are somewhat protected from slugs and birds by cut down plastic drink bottles.  Unfortunately, before the tree was cut down, we had a rather voracious horde of earwigs that munched through some of the cabbage and kale leaves - they're looking a little the worse for wear.  Hopefully they'll rally and bounce back from the damage.

I've kept the slugs well under control and am lucky to find one or two a night now.  There are aphids trying to suck the life out of my tiny carrots, but I'm doing my best to keep them at bay.  I can't wait for summer when the flowers are in bloom - they'll hopefully attract all the good insects like ladybugs and praying mantises to eat all the aphids, not to mention butterflies and bees to help pollinate the plants.  Fun times!

There's only a few weeks left of the trimester now - I have two more assignments to get done and that is it until next year.  With X and Deane away at camp for most of this week, hopefully I'll be able to get a good chunk of work done.  The house is always so much quieter and relaxed when it's just me and T.

I've been pretty slack lately and haven't been running or going to yoga - my neck and shoulder hasn't quite healed from the last sleeping injury (haha, that sounds so ridiculous!) although I'm getting better at sleeping in a healthier position to prevent more damage.  As for the running, aside from getting assignments done, I've just been lazy ;)  Still, with just over a month to go before the half marathon, it's about time I go stuck into training again so I can actually enjoy the run and soak up the scenery, rather than gasping for breath and trying not to die.  Deane's training is non-existent, so I'm just hoping he actually makes it to the end!

Enough blabbering though, stuff to do - prep for camp, dinner, more planting and garden work, research for assignments etc etc etc.  Oh, and apparently I'm supposed to go run for an hour... yeah, maybe tomorrow... (SO LAZY!)

Have a great week - I hope you're enjoying some lovely warm Spring weather :)

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Curb your enthusiasm

Apparently reining in my excitement is not something I'm very good at.  Seedlings are being transplanted, new seeds are being sown, tepees are being built in anticipation of plant growth, and although Frank and Ethel are going great guns, I decided we also needed a compost bin so now I have one of those too.  I think gardening, for me, has done a bit of a flip-flop and landed firmly in the 'does not suck' category.  Perhaps it is a little too early to cement it in place there, but I'm optimistic.  Maybe it's just a matter of having the right attitude towards something that makes it either enjoyable or a chore, but right now I'm having great fun learning stuff and growing things.

Our feathered friends have found the bird feeder, and have managed to mow through a kilogram of bird seed already.  Not to mention completely covered the flax bush in poop...  Ah well, trade-offs.  The plants in my front garden are still in the early stages.  Some are incredibly tiny and you have to look really close to see them, and I think that may have a bit to do with the lack of sunlight.  It's been mostly clouds and rain of late, in typical Auckland Spring fashion - but it's looking good I think:

The coffee sack planters are multiplying!!

Things I have not killed yet (aka - have actually sprouted/are growing):
Button squash, carrots (ball carrots and normal long carrots), rocket, cucumber, radishes, mesclun salad mix, mint, parsley, thyme, sage, potatoes, dwarf beans, phacelia, nasturtium, borage, marigolds, alyssum, chives, dill, strawberries, silverbeet, cherry tomatoes, zucchini.

Things that are still inside in seedling trays (sprouted/growing):
Sweet corn, soybeans, more mesclun salad mix, capsicum, and one white flowered kakabeak plant that we were given seeds for from Deane's aunt, from her existing tree.

Things that haven't sprouted yet:
The other three white kakabeak seeds, lavender, NZ spinach, corn salad, basil, spaghetti squash, butternut pumpkin, cauliflower, broccoli, spring onions.

Things that didn't sprout (or I accidentally mangled) that I had to re-sow:
Spring onions, NZ spinach, lavender, basil.

Things I've planted in the existing garden beds out front, that I hope will actually grow:
Globe artichoke, more dwarf beans, even more mesclun salad (don't worry, I'm staggering the plantings!), mustard greens, beetroot, mizuna, zucchini, ball carrots.

Mwaaaaahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!  ALLLLLLLL THE VEGETABLES!!!!!  And some herbs and companion plants, and some berries :)  In case anyone was wondering what I mean by ball carrots, they're actually called Parisian Round Carrots, but I just call them ball carrots for simplicity's sake.  Also, I know things like beetroot, broccoli and cauliflower are traditionally winter vegetables, but I got summer varieties, so we're all good ;)

I go out and check on my wee plants several times a day just because, and I like to go out on nightly slug hunts.  I head out with my little torch, a skewer, and a container; if I spot a slug it gets transferred to the container, then relocated the next morning to somewhere far from my garden.  They were ravaging Deane's Russian tarragon plant so I had to surround it with crushed egg shells.  I've also smeared Vaseline under the rims of the planters on the deck as an extra precaution, although they appear to be leaving my strawberries alone so far.  I'm not yet at the point of wanting to lure them to their deaths with beer - I quite enjoy the hunt ;)  That may change though, once I've planted more slug-attracting plants like the broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

Frank and Ethel are doing fine, and there is evidence of population expansion (worm eggs!).  I flushed the worm farm with some water earlier this morning, and naturally there were a couple of worms in the bucket afterwards.  I fished them out and deposited them back in the farm.  After a while it occurred to me that if there were worms in the bucket that had drained out, that means there's probably more in the collection tank.  Panic!!  Off I went on a rescue mission - I lifted the working tray, fished out about 20 or so worms that had found themselves stranded in the collection tank, and redistributed them back in their home.  Thankfully, none had died.  In future I'll remember to check the collection tank after flushing :)

I'm rather enjoying this new hobby of mine, and can't wait to start harvesting veges in the next month or so.  My seed collection is already taking up three jars in the fridge (Veges A-M, Veges N-Z, and Flowers/Herbs.  Yep, I'm a nerd), and there's still so much I want to try out.  Patience isn't really my thing, but I'm working on it.  Next on the agenda, building bird netting/wind break shelters, and getting Deane to build another square metre garden for the sweet corn and soybeans that will need transplanting soon.  Exciting stuff!!

In other news, marathon training is going well - next week will be getting into the 20km+ long weekend runs (this weekend was 19km).  Deane's marathon training... is not going so well.  He will most definitely be walking, and possibly not the full marathon.  Oh well.

Study is cranking along okay, although I'm really looking forward to finishing these papers in late October/early November.  Project management is definitely NOT my forte, nor is policy planning and writing.  Too many big words that require high levels of concentration to translate into plain English.  Ugh.  One day at a time, I will make it through.  Second assignments are looming...

Still loving yoga, but am not managing to get there as often as I'd like (the aforementioned marathon training and study is sucking up a lot of time, not to mention the current gardening obsession).  Hip and shoulder flexibility is still a bit poop, but hopefully I'll be able to get into daily practice once these papers are finished and will be able to work on that more.

Okay, I'm blabbering now and y'all are probably bored (if you've managed to read this far down, that is) so it's time to sign off.  Kids are doing well, and looking forward to holidays in a couple of weeks (wow, that came up fast!).  X is officially enrolled for high school next year (OMG!!) and has camp next term.  T has testing for intermediate next term (again, OMG!!) and is having a really good year.  I think that covers everything, so I'm going to say bye for now, and go have a nap, check my plants again, read a book or knit something.  Until next time...

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Frank and Ethel Collective

You know me by now, right?  You know that when I decide to do something, I go at it whole hog.  Yep, that's me, all or nothin'.  Remember last post I was poring over gardening books and planning an assault on the front yard?  Well my friends, the wheels are most definitely in motion.  It all started with sprouting mung beans and alfalfa seeds:

Alfalfa!!!  So much alfalfa.  From two tablespoons of seeds.

Mung beans!!!

Note to self: do smaller batches next time.  Nobody else eats it.

Emboldened by this success, I decided to branch out and try actual plants.  From seeds.  Because y'know, economical and all that.  Plus, a good challenge for this decidedly not-green-thumbed yahoo.  But why grow just one plant?  In one measly pot?  Oh no, no no no.  We must charge forth, arms flailing, and plant ALL THE THINGS.

It may not look terribly exciting to the average Joe, but I am quietly trying to not explode off the chair every five minutes to go and check if anything is growing yet, or worry that I really am doomed to a life of store-bought veg.  Behold, my square metre garden!

Deane built the raised garden bed for me (with plans for expansion, should everything go well), and although it looks empty at the moment, there are actually seeds (hopefully) germinating in the soil.

Here is my 'map' for this round of planting (totes not to scale):

The beans, rocket, spring onions, carrots and radishes are all planted straight into the plot, and I have the cucumber and mesclun germinating on the kitchen windowsill along with some capsicum and cherry tomatoes.  I have also planted some lavender, marigold and phacelia (purple tansy) seeds for companion plants to try and ward off any wee buggies that might eat my vege plants before they grow, and encourage helpful insects like ladybugs and praying mantises that eat the slightly less welcome guests.  Plus they'll be providing a feeding and resting spot for bees, who need all the help they can get.

Flat leaf parsley and some anaemic-looking basil, hanging out with the yet-to-sprout seedlings.

The coffee sack planters have silverbeet, New Zealand spinach, borage and nasturtium, and the big sack has desiree potatoes.  I found a tutorial for making coffee sack planters online (although they're ridiculously easy and you don't really need instructions.  It's one of those 'why didn't I think of that?' kinda things).  I got the coffee sacks for $2 from the Allpress Cafe on Ponsonby Road.  Way cheaper than crappy plastic pots or wooden planters, lighter and easier to move than ceramic or terracotta pots.  And they're biodegradable :)

Obviously nothing has sprouted yet - I only planted the first seeds a few days ago.  Let me tell you, staring at potting mix does not make anything grow faster.  However I did spy some tiny wee green bits in a few of the mesclun seedling plots.  Excitement!!  Two days earlier than expected!

I have also planted 12 strawberry plants.  I pondered briefly whether 12 plants would be too many.  Then I considered how much I spent on strawberries last summer, and realised it probably wasn't enough.  We shall see.

I downloaded a gardening diary app on my phone to keep track of my garden (although it only does fruit, veg, and herbs; not flowers).  It's neat to see the 'days to harvest' counting down!  I'm sure it'll be even more exciting when that time gets closer.  I am of course assuming things actually grow...

Also very exciting is the accompaniment to the vegetable garden - The Frank and Ethel Collective.  What is The FEC you may ask?  Why, it is my worm farm!  It currently houses approximately 2,000 composting worms.  As worms are hermaphroditic, I have named half of them Frank, and half of them Ethel.  Or maybe all 2,000 of them are called both Frank and Ethel.  I don't think they'd mind either way.

The unsuspecting 'worm cafe', aka The FEC.

Frank(s) and Ethel(s) have been settling in over the last few days, getting all cozy in their new home.  On the cooler nights I covered their box with a blanket because apparently they prefer temperatures between 10 and 30 degrees.  I don't want them to get too chilly.  Today I gave them a small feeding of worm treats (worm fattener, made by mixing chicken layer pellets, milk powder, wheat bran, corn flour, and lime or dolomite) and tomorrow I will give them their first bunch of food scraps.  I've worked out a schedule to start with (treats on Monday, feed on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, condition on Thursday, and flush on Sunday) to ensure they're well looked after.  I don't want to accidentally become a worm mass-murderer.  Maybe a little OTT...?  I'm pretty sure my kids think I've lost the plot.  Either way, I'm happy.  I'm enjoying myself.  I'm optimistic that I will be able to grow something edible before the end of summer.

I have plans to plant more things (More carrots! More lettuce! Button squash! Courgettes! Beetroot!), and am already looking forward to thinking about stuff I could plant for next winter (Asian greens! Broccoli! Soy beans!)  I have a mushroom kit ready to go for oyster mushrooms - I'm just waiting for the spawn to arrive in the mail.  And I'm even getting a bird feeder.  Roll on, summer!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

I promised you knitting...

So here we go.  Crappy self-taken pics and all!

First off, we have the chevron baby blanket, all finished:

It measures 30" x 42" unblocked (not gonna block it.  So lazy).  I added four extra garter stitches on each side, and six rows of garter stitch on the top and bottom for uniformity and to stop rolling.  Each zig-zag is 12 rows.  I used less than two balls of yellow, four balls of grey, and five balls of white.  It's knit in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran (colourways were 'Cowslip', 'Grey', and 'White').  It's not exactly pastel, but still unisex baby colours, yes?

Next up, we have the Tinder cardigan, knit with Cascade 220 in 'Sparrow' (although I think the colour is more reminiscent of a mouse).  My apologies for the bathroom selfie pics, it's been hard to pin Deane down for anything these days, let alone knitwear modelling photography.

These photos don't give you a very good idea of detail - they give you a better idea of the state of my bathroom sink!  I might try to get some better pictures some time.  But in any case, the cardigan fits wonderfully, and I love it.  The collar turns down nicely, it works well with a scarf, it's nice and long, I found some cool wooden buttons to go on it, and although initially I wasn't enthusiastic about the colour, it has grown on me.  Love.  I used up most of the five skeins of Cascade 220, but there was no need for yarn chicken (this may not be the case with the current project on the needles, however).  I knit the body in one piece and the sleeves in the round, which made the construction much quicker and easier - just the raglan seaming, then picking up stitches for the collar and button bands.  A half stitch seam allowance (for the raglan sleeves) can be a little fiddly, but once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty smoothly.  And taking the time to get it right is worth the nice tidy finish.  Overall I'm very happy with this cardigan, and the pattern was really easy to follow.  Thumbs up!

I knit some yoga socks, wore them once, then decided I didn't like them.  Bare feet are so much better!  I haven't taken a pic of them yet, not sure I'll bother.  I followed this pattern though, modifying it by using 2.5mm needles, casting on 56 stitches, knitting 5.5 pattern repeats for the legs and 3 pattern repeats for the feet, and only increasing/decreasing four stitches around for the heels.

And for a breather (and to use up the rest of the fingering weight cotton I've had for some time) I knit a few dishcloths.  I didn't have quite enough for three full dishcloths, but who really cares?  They're dishcloths!  I held the yarn double to get it closer to the worsted weight yarn recommendation.

Each cloth knit up in about an hour and the pattern is hardly a pattern at all so you can memorise it within seconds.  This makes them super easy to knock out when you've got a bit of time spare.  Must get my hands on some more cotton...

Currently on the needles is a Rocky Coast cardigan.  I'm knitting it in Cascade 220 'Natural', and making the 40" size.  Although my bust is a measly 33.5" at the moment (marathon training, y'know...) the pattern recommends 4"-6" positive ease.  This means I don't have to make the adjustments for the wider arms and deeper/wider yoke and can just follow the pattern as is.  I've split off the sleeves and just have to knit down the body, but the knitting frenzy has stalled of late.  I've moved on to another distraction - vegetable gardening!  Okay, so I haven't actually started gardening yet, but I'm reading all about it and planning what I'm going to plant, where to place the garden/s or pots, where to put the compost bin, etc etc.  I'm hoping that although I have zero gardening experience and can kill a houseplant at fifty paces just by glancing at it, I might learn something by obsessively poring over a multitude of gardening books.  My current favourites are Square Metre Gardening by Mel Bartholomew (have read it cover to cover) and One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein.  A square metre garden seems manageable and I can put it out in the front yard, which appears to be the only available space on this tiny,grass-free section of ours - Deane has already monopolised the deck with a barbecue, pots full of slug- and caterpillar-ridden capsicums, and dead herbs.  The front yard is pretty shaded at the moment and I can't remember what the sun exposure is like out there during summer, but there's plenty of veg that can be grown in the shade, and the rest can go in pots on the deck.  Wish me luck!!

Obviously I will continue to knit the cardigan - the pattern book is due back at the library soon, and I really want another snuggly, oversized cardi that I can throw on in a second - but my current vegetable gardening research obsession, along with running, yoga, and study, is taking up most of my spare time.  I've also got back into the kitchen a lot more of late - I've made my first batch of soy milk, turned it into tofu (which I had for lunch yesterday - yum!!!  Success!), am sprouting some mung beans and alfalfa seeds, made my first batch of vegan butter substitute, and have been enjoying a range of tasty eats from Thug Kitchen and Isa (which are both also due back at the library soon.  Sad face).

Right now, it's time to fit in a bit of knitting and vege garden research before a 12km run later.  Here's hoping it doesn't rain again.  Stupid Auckland weather...  Have a good week!

Side note: Went to my first ever hard house rave last night.  It wasn't horrible.  Probably won't go to another one though - I'm still partially deaf...

Monday, 3 August 2015


...mmmmygosh, I've been going to yoga classes for two weeks and let me tell you, they are waaaaaaay better than trying to do your own thing at home.  Even with a phone app/DVD/whatever, it is really quite hard to be sure you're doing it right.  I found out about an awesome deal at the Auckland Yoga Academy for beginners or people new to the Academy, where you can attend unlimited beginner yoga classes for 30 days for $49.  They also have a follow-up deal of unlimited classes (any type/level) for $99.  After that, monthly membership is $139 (or $710 for six months, or $1,099 a year - cheaper than a gym membership).  Yes please!  They have a great timetable choc-full of classes, so there's bound to be one at a time suitable for you, and the teachers are lovely.  I've been in classes with six different teachers, and they've all been great.  After a week of switching between Hatha and Ashtanga, I've decided to stick with Ashtanga.  Each class is the same, so you can practice and perfect your asanas and breathing through the vinyasas.  Being a runner, I wasn't surprised to find that my hips are really inflexible, and my shoulders have always been quite tight - they're getting less flexible as I get older.  Hopefully I'll be able to remedy that with regular practice.  I've been every day so far, except for last Friday.

Last Friday I got to check out the Auckland Food Show, thanks to Green Meadows Beef.  They ran a competition where you sent in a question you would like to ask them, and the best questions won two tickets to the show so you could ask them in person.  My questions (I was sneaky and had two) were 'how long do your cows live on your farm before they go on to 'greener pastures', and are they 100% grass fed before they come to you?'.  It was great seeing the Carey boys again (they're good people, I like them), get my answers (coincidentally, I had been wondering these things already so the competition was serendipitous) and we got some free eye fillet steak for Deane and X at the same time.  Apparently that was also part of the prize, but I guess being vegan, I didn't notice that bit ;)

While we were at the Food Show, I came across a product that I think is really quite cool - eco-friendly food wraps!  Bee Wrapt food wraps are made with funky fabrics and beeswax from the company owner's own bees.  Despite my little internal battle over whether honey and other bee products are okay to use - it can be a bit of a vegan 'grey area' (I have the same internal battle over wool - there are arguments on both sides for each), I'm currently of the mind that by choosing to buy products, clothing or foods that have been ethically sourced/produced, are environmentally friendly, and for the most part cruelty free, I'm doing the best I can.  Everyone should be free to make their own decisions about what they buy and use, and there doesn't have to be any hard-line rules.  But I digress...  I didn't end up buying any food wraps on the day, but discovered another company that does much the same thing.  Honey Wraps are sold at the eco store and are made with 100% organic cotton, infused with a blend of beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin.  But what won me over was the little piece of seed paper in each wrap - you soak it in water overnight, plant it the next day, and in a couple of weeks you have some wildflowers in your garden - a perfect stopover for bees :)  Provided, of course, that you can get them to grow without accidentally killing them...  I'm hoping for the best, and am even considering attempting to grow some vegetables out on the deck this summer.  The house plant my sister gave me two Christmases ago is still alive, so you never know :)  I'm planning on getting some more wraps (from both companies) so we can ditch the plastic wrap and cut down on waste.

Other goings-on include studying two Level 7 papers this trimester - Project Management, and Policy and Planning for Library Services (only two more to go after that!); running five days a week for pre-marathon-training training (does that make sense?  It does in my head...); trying to stick to a housework schedule; and eating my way through Thug Kitchen (hilarious if you don't mind bad language) and Isa Does It.  I seriously need to buy that book, I've had it out from the library about five times now.  And Veganomicon.  And The Vegan Table.  And maybe also The Unbakery Book...  ALL THE VEGAN COOKBOOKS!!!  I love food...

I hope y'all are having a great week.  Can you believe it's August already?!?  Where did the time go?  Next post will be knitting-related, just a heads-up.  I have a finished cardigan to show off, among other things.  See you then!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Knitting: It's what school holidays are for, right?

We are now into the second week of the school holidays and while that's great for the boys, it makes my first week back at studying a little challenging.  However, I managed to power through the required course work in the first two days (go me) and the rest of this week will be dedicated to running, yoga and knitting.  I wanted to get all my spring cleaning done before the trimester started, and although not completely done, I managed about 95% of it - I still have our bedroom to do.  I'm pretending the gardens don't exist...  I have managed to get quite a bit of knitting time recently, which has pleased me immensely.  (Hi Margaret!  Yes, I'm still knitting, don't worry!).  Here's a wee roundup of FOs for you:

The Norma blanket, knit in Malabrigo Worsted (undyed) - I knit the largest size, which used the full charts to row 82 (the pattern on Knitty says to stop at row 32).  It used less than seven full skeins, so I still have a bit left to make a matching little something for the baby (maybe an Aviatrix hat or something).  I love this blanket!  It was such a fun knit, and it is so squooshy soft I almost want to keep it.

I knit Deane a new winter sweater.  It's from a WWII-era pattern which is pretty cool - the original pattern book has been restored and can now be uploaded in pdf form, or accessed online.  Pretty neat, huh?  I knit the largest size (44" chest) with Drops Alaska worsted yarn in dark grey, and used about 20.5 balls.  The last sweater I knit Deane, while not a complete disaster, wasn't exactly a complete success either - the ribbing is atrocious and looks terrible.  That one took me a while to knit as well, if you include attempt #1 which ended up being frogged (because I used two different-sized needle tips, duh) - like, a year.  Oops.  When the idea of knitting him a new one was discussed, he gave me a bit of flak for that.  So of course, reverse psychology being what it is, I knit this one in less than two weeks.  Again, I wouldn't call it a complete success - it's a little on the short side (I blame the belly... ahem...just kidding ;P).  Other than that its pretty good.  Deane likes it and he has to wear it, so I guess that's the main thing.  I certainly have ideas for the next one though!

To break up the monotony of knitting so. much. dark. grey. stockinette, I worked up a little market bag in some DK weight cotton yarn I've had in my stash since forever ago.  I used up all the yellow I had left and needed a different colour for the handles, and the only other colour I had was black, so this bag has ended up being accidentally Hufflepuff :)  I think it's cute, if a little on the small side - I was restricted with the amount of yarn available.  I might make some more in the future if I can get DK cotton on sale, and will use larger needles for the mesh part of the bag to make it bigger, as well as including more pattern repeats.

I'm planning to start yoga classes next week (at Auckland Yoga Academy - they have some pretty good deals for beginners, and they're not far from my house.  Double win) so I needed a yoga mat carry bag.  I knit this in some fingering weight cotton I was given by a friend quite some time ago.  The pattern calls for worsted weight, so I double-stranded for the bag, and quadruple-stranded for the strap.  Even then, it only used up a little over two balls so I still have some left.  Dishcloths, anyone?

And finally, the current project on the needles is another baby blanket.  This one is a lovely chevron striped blanket.  I've modified the pattern slightly by adding extra pattern repeats to make it wider, and have included extra stitches on each side for a garter stitch border, as well as some garter stitch rows top and bottom to prevent the edges rolling.  This is being knit in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, and is another super squooshy soft blanket.  OMG this kid is going to be drowning in soft hand-knits!  If I had the choice I'd make it much more colourful, but the mum-to-be prefers pastels and won't be finding out the gender so I'm pretty limited.  Okay, so these colours aren't strictly pastel, but that's about as much as I'm willing to budge.  At least until we know what the little bubs is going to be :)  I'm quietly very excited about this new arrival, and have many knits planned (as well as some other little projects).

So as you can see, I've been pretty busy with the craftiness.  The next project on the list is either the Rocky Coast cardigan or the Tinder cardigan.  I have the yarn and patterns for both ready to go, so it's just a matter of making a decision.  I may need to flip a coin...

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Vegan diet: nailing it (mostly)

I went in and had a full health check last week, with a whole raft of blood tests etc etc.  I am super ridiculously healthy!  My iron and folate levels, B12 levels, and all the other bits and pieces are perfect.  I have excellent blood pressure, and I am comfortably in the healthy weight range.  The only thing I am slightly low in is Vitamin D.  My only explanation for this could be the whole staying inside and studying/knitting, not spending as much time outside in the sunlight.  I have three tablets to take, one per month for winter, and then I should be sweet.  Vitamin D deficiency prevents your body from absorbing enough calcium, which can eventually lead to osteoporosis, or bone softening/weakening.  I have never broken a bone, so I think my bones are pretty healthy, but it's good to keep on top of these things :)

I am definitely gluten intolerant, but like many things, the level of intolerancy is a spectrum.  Mine is not severe, so I can manage it much like I do IBS - how it works best for me.  Thankfully, I don't have to cut it out of my diet completely.  I just know what will happen if I eat too much, so it's my own responsibility.

My doctor is 100% supportive of my vegan diet, and is confident that I am managing my diet well in terms of getting the right amount of nutrients (as indicated by my blood tests).  Onward with healthy, ethical, environmentally friendly eating!

Knitting the blanket is going very well - it really is quite an enjoyable knit.  I've churned through nearly four 100g skeins of Malabrigo Worsted, and am 42 rows through the large chart, with 40 to go before the border.  I expect I'll go through a few more skeins in the process!  I purchased eight, just to be sure I had more than enough.  Unfortunately, it's impossible to take a picture of a square blanket on a circular needle that isn't long enough to spread out even a quarter of the blanket, so the only picture I can offer you of my progress is this:

Can't wait 'til it's finished!  It'll look fabulous once it's blocked, and then I can move on to more projects, like this one, or this one.  Oh, this baby will be drowning in hand knits...

Although, I'm itching to cast on a cardigan or two.  Having gone through my wardrobe of knits for the winter, I've come to the conclusion that I don't actually like the necks on two of my jerseys (square and envelope collars), another one is too itchy (possum/merino blend), so that leaves me with my two favourite cardigans, and the lovely soft teal cardigan.  Others have been given away, or wrecked in some way (felted, got a hole that I never quite got around to fixing).  Yes, it's definitely time for new hand knits.  I'm thinking a Rocky Coast or Tinder...

As expected, spring cleaning (er, winter cleaning) is going slowly but well.  I've cleaned the entire downstairs from top to bottom (literally), and now just have the upstairs to do.  We won't mention the outside...  But today?  Today, my SIL and I will be watching Duck Dynasty :)  Have a good week!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Double Rainbow: 2015 Edition

I had a goal this year of beating last year's time.  I had a slightly more ambitious goal of placing in the top three for my age group.  I didn't quite manage it, but I came close - 4th place.  Oh well...

It was warmer this year, by about 4°.  The sun came out to play for a while, but then it went back into hiding.  From about 1pm onwards it started getting really chilly.  Although the official temperature was about 12°, the wind chill factor was biting.  One good thing about it was that it blew away all the bugs in the cow paddocks, so we didn't have to run with eyes and mouth closed through that section like we did last year.  That was challenging.  And gross.

The race itself went relatively okay - it started off pretty well.  From about the 10km mark I knew my stomach was going to cause issues - I've been eating quite a bit of gluten-based food lately, including a bagel for breakfast.  It was coming back to haunt me :(  The first hill climb was challenging, but the views were spectacular and the downhill was the most fun I've had in ages.  There wasn't too much mud, so the trail wasn't slippery.  I was flying, and it was awesome.  But as we know, all good things must come to an end, and there was another uphill climb ahead.  I haven't seen the splits yet, but I'm pretty sure the second climb was slower than the first - more walking ;)  I was also disappointed to find that there were no marmite and chip sandwiches at the top.  The prospect of that sandwich was one of the reasons I had decided to do the run again.  Turns out they'd misplaced the marmite (Martin found it later, buried at the bottom of a shopping bag).  To be honest, I probably wouldn't have eaten one anyway given that my stomach was playing havoc, but it would've been nice to have the option.

The photographer (Allan Ure from Photos4Sale) was being cheeky and positioning himself at the top of hill climbs.  I know it was because that's where the good background views were, but it certainly makes you work.  Running up hills is hard!  So I gave him a bit of flak for it:

I have no idea who that other guy was.  Guess he was just enjoying the view.  And ruining my photo...

Hey, you caught me walking.

Yes Allan, I'm happy

What? You want me to run?

Okay, I'm running. We good?  Great. I'm totally walking again once I get past you...

The home stretch was a little slow-going.  My tights, clearly designed for those blessed with thin legs, were cutting into my legs a little at the bottom cuffs.  My shins swell a bit when I run (yay shin splints) and by the time I'd finished my second climb and was heading back down, it was causing me some grief in my left leg.  The next day I had bruising and a big lump on my left shin where they were digging in.  Guess I'll be wearing them for short runs only from now on...  That'll teach me to wear new running gear on race day. #rookiemistake

I was going to try and finish in three hours, but had to adjust my time goal significantly with the day's little upsets.  Although slightly disappointed with my finishing time, I was happy to have cut nine minutes off last year, and move up a slot on the finisher's list.

Yay, finished!!  My shoes are covered in cow poop, but I'm finished.

My official time was 3:22:12.  I was very happy to find that they had warm pumpkin soup and vegetarian sausages as well as the usual meaty offerings for the runners afterwards.  And of course, beer.  We hung around for the prize-giving, and Martin won the last spot prize of the day - 'All You Can Eat Turkey', aka free entry into Lactic Turkey events for a year.  Lucky guy ;)  My friend Rob came second in his age category, which was pretty cool.

We arrived home at the very reasonable hour of 6.30pm, so the day wasn't as long as last year.  I'd set the alarm for 5am and we were on the road at about 5.30am - last year we were super early.  No need for that!

In other news, T headed off to Year 6 camp this morning.  He won't be back until Friday.  I'm going to miss him!

Bye!  Have fun!!

I've started knitting a lovely blanket in the most squishable yarn ever - Malabrigo Worsted.  YUM!  I ordered it online from Knitnstitch, and it arrived the next morning.  Gotta love speedy service :)  The pattern is Norma, and the yarn is Malabrigo Worsted Natural, which is a lovely creamy white and soooooo soft.  It'll be for a much-awaited, long-planned baby of some close friends.  They're not finding out what they're having, and prefer 'classic' colours, so I'm playing it safe.  So far this is a pretty fun knit - the chart is easy to follow, albeit rather large.  I've nearly finished the first (smaller) chart, and should move on to the large one by tonight.  It takes up two pieces of A4 paper.  Neat.

Square blanket on a round circular

We enjoyed a good couple of runs recently - hill repeats on Mt Eden on a foggy morning:

And a four-hour Monday trail run in the Waitakeres:

Love it.

With a few weeks to go before the next round of study begins, I'm taking the opportunity to thoroughly clean my house from top to bottom, one room at a time.  It'll be slow going, but it is sorely needed, so I better get stuck in.  Today, the dining room and downstairs hallway.  Tomorrow, the lounge!  Have a good week :)