Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas and the Usual December Mayhem

Whew! Long time, no post. Bad Anna - I've been trying to do the blogging-type-thing more regularly, but the last few weeks have been chaotic. I've been working A Lot over the last few weeks, and when your work day is nine and a half hours long, and you only get to sit down for half an hour the whole time, you tend to come home too tired to even think straight, let alone write blog posts. Especially when you're having to deal with Christmas shoppers....

My own Christmas shopping was fairly limited. I don't tend to go into a mad gift frenzy this time of year. I tend to make things for most people, and only buy a few things for immediate family and sometimes close friends, which really doesn't take that long because I actually think about what I'm going to get them beforehand, rather than just aimlessly trawling the shops and getting depressed by the rampant consumerism and the stress all around. That sounds bitter, but it isn't really. I really like this time of year because I enjoy making people things and giving gifts - I really enjoy it. What makes me sad is the fact that so many people don't seem to enjoy it; they seem to get so bummed out by the feeling of obligation to get gifts for everyone that it sucks the joy out of the whole thing. That's one of the reasons that I like making things for people - I would much rather stay at home, relax, make up a few batches of biscuits to give to friends and enjoy the process of doing something for them than traipse sadly around department stores.

So, long story short, most friends and coworkers got baked goods this year. Though there was a little spot of Christmas knitting. I acquired a present or two for my brother, but by Christmas Eve there weren't that many presents for him under the (hastily erected) tree, and I thought I should rectify the situation. So I spent a rather delightful Christmas Eve night watching Watchmen, eating grilled cheese on toast and knitting a hat for the brother:

(I did have a picture of him wearing it, but he'd just gotten off of an international flight and I thought it would be uncharitable to post pictures of his jet-lagged self on the internet. Maybe later)

The info: Turn a Square by Jared Flood, knitted on 5.5mm double-pointed needles, out of a bit over half a ball of Rowan Pure Wool Aran, and scraps of Cleckheaton Merino Supreme and Bendigo Woollen Mills Rustic 12ply.

The commentary: This was a really great, simply pattern, and was wonderfully quick as well (I hurried it along a little by using heavier weight yarn than called for and casting on fewer stitches). Given my love of raglan style pullovers, I'm actually quite amazed that it took me this long to try the decrease style out in a hat, especially given the fact that I've in the past had quite a bit of trouble with crown shaping. At any rate, I'm definitely glad I did try it - I think I see more of these hats in my future...

The hat aside, the rest of Christmas was a good bit of fun. The aforementioned brother arrived back from Canada on Christmas morning, and bestowed some gifts that he'd acquired over there. My father was particularly enamoured with these slippers:

Not long after, we all sat down to a lovely lunch. Nowadays we don't really tend to do the Christmas roast - too often the Australian weather doesn't really lend itself to such a thing, and when there are only two carnivores in the family, there's not that much call for excessive amounts of meat anyway. So instead we were traditional in the Australian sense and had a barbeque! Behold, our fine spread:

Lamb skewers, roast potatoes, salad, and some lovely cheese and cornbread kebabs with grilled vegetables... Yum. For dessert, we had almond biscuits and ice-cream with this sauce. I have been eating the sauce leftovers today, scooped into my mouth with whole pecans. Yes, I know this will clog my arteries faster than you can say 'saturated fats' - don't care! So a good time was definitely had by all.

In other news, despite work grinding me into the ground, I have been doing some knitting. I have a nearly completed hat and a half completed cardigan on the needles - both my own designs. So stay tuned for those in the near future.

Lastly, on a sadder note, we unfortunately ended up celebrating Christmas with one less family member present than on the previous year. While he had battled on for quite some time, determined to keep sleeping all over my knitting and getting under my feet while I baked for as long as he possibly could, a little under two weeks ago Alex my poor old man cat was just not doing well, so I took him off for his final trip to the vet. We had hoped that he'd last long enough to see my brother at Christmas, but alas it was not to be, and in some ways it's probably better that way - it would possibly have been ever sadder for my brother to see him as he was by the end. I was a bit of a soggy mess at the time - the cat and I had been a duo ever since I was six years old - but really, it was a happy ending. He was nearly 20 years old - he'd had a long life, and a happy one, and he had a merciful end when it was time, with someone who loved him by his side: we should all be so lucky. I, umm, have something in my eyes.... so I'll just leave it at this: Goodbye old man cat - I'll never ever forget you.

So as not to end on such a maudlin note: I generally find the phrase 'Seasons Greetings' to be somewhat irritating, so I don't really want to employ it here, but to everyone who's celebrating at this time of year - for whatever occasion or reason - I hope you have a really wonderful time!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The aforementioned shawl!

A quick post, because today was atrociously long and as a result, my attention has been rendered atrociously short. Recall how last post I made mention of a recently finished shawl? Probably not - I sure as hell don't read blogs that attentively. But here it is anyway!

This fine creation is...: Wandering the Moor, by Celeste Glassel. Knitted on a 3.75mm circular needle, out of a single 150g ball of Kauni 8/2 Effektgarn (EM colourway).

What Anna has to say: I really enjoyed working on this. I started it in the final arm-flailing throes of exam revision, when I needed something that I could just knit without thinking, and this pattern fitted the bill rather nicely. I finished the stockinette portion in a wee bit over a week (and gathered several appreciative comments from both friends and strangers who saw me knitting away in the pub while sipping on my Guinness), and knocked the lace portion off over the course of a few days. Admittedly I was a bit tired of it by the time I was working the final few long lace rows, but that's pretty much standard for shawls - for the most part this was a pleasure to knit.

I'm pretty keen on the yarn as well. The colours are just as vivid in real life as in the above picture - this shawl is very, very red. The yarn is quite scratchy, but I have to admit, I kind of like it that way. I do like the ultra soft yarns (*cough* Malabrigo *cough*), but I will admit to having a soft spot for the scratchy wools with a bit more texture, in case my obvious devotion to the Noro yarns hasn't already made this predilection abundantly clear. I really loved using this yarn, and definitely look forward to doing so again - actually, I already have a ball of rainbow coloured Kauni that's earmarked for a gift project next year.

In conclusion, I always thought that shawls were something that other people wore. For all that I do enjoy a spot of lace knitting here and there (Exhibit A: Luna Moth shawl), I was always reluctant to give into the triangle shawl craze because I doubted that I'd ever find ways to wear such an item. It wasn't until the last few months, when I actually started wearing my Luna Moth, that I began to reconsider. I'm glad I did - happy to report that I have already worn this one, and have every intention of doing so again. Repeatedly!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Out the other side...

Well, I officially survived exams! Actually, they finished nearly two weeks ago, but unfortunately even once they were done my schedule didn't really include a lot of free time. I spent a lot of time working, and a lot of time catching up with all of the poor people I neglected while I was sitting exams and writing essays. So unfortunately I'm still tired, but at least the things that have been eating my brain have been more enjoyable than exam revision (and involved a lot more beer).

At any rate, I've at least found time for various new creative projects - though don't I always? Especially when I should be doing more constructive things...

I taught myself to needle-felt - it really wasn't very difficult. Basically you stab things with a barbed needle until they stick to the surface (felt/felted wool) that you've placed them on. I probably don't need to explain how this can be a useful stress relieving activity... I used the technique to decorate the felted bag that I'd made ages and ages ago. I liked the finished product well enough - it's not really structurally suited to daily out-and-about use, but I'm currently using it as a very pleasing and colourful laundry bag, a purpose which suits it very well as it holds a lot.

I also taught myself the bare bones of beading/wire jewellery, and made some basic earrings and stitch markers - I had gotten tired of all of the cool knitting kids having nice stitch markers while I continued using the dodgy plastic ones from Spotlight. I already had the bits and pieces for this lying around the house, as I'd been meaning to get into it for a while, so the gratification that comes with learning something new was pleasingly quick to arrive. I suspect that this might turn into yet another addictive hobby, so watch this space for more beading adventures.

I also started knitting another shawl as part of the continuing stash-bust - a red, lace-edged triangular number. Started and finished, to be more precise - I knitted the last few rows and bound it off this morning, and it's blocking as I write this. I'm very much looking forward to tomorrow when it's dry - it already looks rather lovely, if I do say so myself, so expect an enthusiastic post about that in the next few days.

Other than that, it's been business as usual around here. My mind is boggling at the amount that I've baked over the last week. I took some things into work on the weekend, and it was my father's 60th birthday yesterday, so in under a week I have produced three batches of brownies, a batch of cupcakes, a fruitcake, and as of tonight, a batch of almond biscuits. Not bad for a girl whose oven is on the brink of collapse.

I've also been dutifully cat watching. The poor old man is still around, but probably not for much longer. He's persisted for much longer than the vet was expecting, but now he's getting a bit dazed looking, and when you pick him up he hardly weighs a thing. So we're keeping a close eye on him, and when he doesn't seem happy any more, it's off to the vet for the last time. I will miss him horribly when he's gone.

Oh, and I've been playing around with the idea of a zombie-themed colourwork hat. Because that is what mature adults do, right?