Monday, October 31, 2005

The Mytob virus is back in my inbox with a vengence, after a distinct period of relief. The offending computer must have taken a long weekend off. They're each quite large files, slow to download.

I'm so nearly fininished with the Wallaby that I might as well postpone the next picture until tomorrow, when I may well be utterly finished. I should have time to allow myself a few more rows of Princess Shawl, and still be able to make enough of a start on the next First Holy Communion veil that I'll have something to show James when he comes for my husband's 80th birthday on 19 November.

Twirly Scarves

Thanks to everybody for their help. I gather I'm the last person in the world to join the bandwagon -- or even to notice it going by. This sounds fun. And potentially more productive than buying more yarn.

One of the Yahoo groups I not only belong to but actually read is blogger_user_support, although not often with much profit. Who should turn up this morning, once the Mytobs were out of the way, but Hazel Roots, wanting help with the curlywhirlies team blog? Kismet, yet again.


I hope the Waleses do well in America.

A great English football player from the 60's, George Best, is near death in a hospital somewhere, essentially from alcoholism. Think Joe DiMaggio, perhaps. This man was good. (I hate soccer and am bored by it.) There was an anecdote in a Sunday paper yesterday, apparently a story that Best himself liked to tell. It's about the saddest thing I ever heard:

"...concerns the time that he won a bundle of cash in a casino. He chucked the dosh on his bed in the Savoy, ordered champagne and waited for Miss UK to finish getting undressed in the bathroom. When the waiter came in with the booze, he was confronted by a bed covered in pound notes and by Miss UK in all her glory coming naked out of the bathroom. His comment was, 'Forgive me for asking, Mr Best, but where did it all go wrong?'"

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Lots of glasses. Posted by Picasa
A good time was had by all. Posted by Picasa

So here we are in darkness. My mother said once that she was glad to have been born sufficiently late in the history of things, to fly. Me, I'm glad to have been born sufficiently early, to have crossed the sea by ship, back in the days when that was the normal way to do it. Travelling west, one had a succession of 25 hour days. It's a wonderful way to live.

Today's pictures have nothing to do with knitting. They were taken at Thomas-the-Elder's 21st birthday bash, at a Thai restaurant in London earlier this month. At the table, you see Alexander, then Ed Ogden, our son-in-law, Thomas's father. On his left are his daughters Lizzie and Hellie, and then some Cambridge hearties unknown to me. Thomas himself, of course, is at the head of the table. Opposite Alexander is his wife Ketki -- that's a good picture of her.

The other one shows Ed, again, on the right, and Thomas with his beautiful girlfriend Monica (both suffering somewhat from red-eye). Her jacket was all glittery with sequins and looked sensational. The other people are Cambridge hearties, again.


I've started the neck ribbing on the Wallaby. The end is in sight.

Here's a question: inside the front cover, the Fall Knitter's advertises their new Scarf book. There is a picture of a woman wearing a crinkle-dy scarf of many colours. The book review section says on page 36 "Rick Mondragon's multi-colored, ruffley 'Carmen' scarf looks fun to knit..." It seems safe to assume that that's it. Since the book is a "Best of Knitter's..." collection, I thought the pattern must have appeared in the magazine, but I've been back through the issues published in the current millenium, and I can't find it. Does anybody know?

I'm curious about how the ruffles are done, as I saw a similar sort of thing in Marks and Spencer this week, except that it was lacey.

I've started getting occasional junk comments on this Blog, which makes me feel very grown-up. I had one about dentists in San Diego this morning -- or is that code for something more sinister?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Oh, dear. Posted by Picasa

Yesterday the CD turned up of the pictures my brother-in-law took at Thomas-the-Elder's 21st birthday party dinner in London a couple of weeks ago. Alas that he (Roger) won't be here for my husband's birthday -- three weeks from today. I've started out with a picture of me and my sister, for the sake of the shawl she's wearing. We may get on to something more cheerful in days to come.

I've done the second decrease round in the yoke of the Wallaby. It should be finished next week.

Yesterday, for the first time in rather a while, I made a bit of forward progress against the enveloping chaos. Some dust dusted, a couple of things ironed, a pile of paper dealt with -- that sort of thing. God rewarded my efforts with the Fall issue of Knitter's, when the mail finally turned up at lunchtime.

It has been a very long time since I had the slightest inclination to knit anything from Knitter's, but I couldn't possibly give up the subscription, as I have thought of doing with the new British magazine Knitting. I need to read Perri Klass, to begin with. (Helen, if you're there: she's a pediatrician with a practice in Boston. Yes, she's a doctor and she knits.) I'm intrigued by the title of the forthcoming book she has written with her mother: "Every Mother is a Daughter: the Neverending Quest for Success, Inner Peace, and a Really Clean Kitchen". (Joe, if you're there: note the position of the full stop. I utterly agree with you.)

And then there are the ads. Rachel was inspired by her aunt's appearance at Thomas-the-Elder's party in the shawl I knit (above) to ask for a jolly one like that. What about the Yarn Barn ad on page 46? I might scan it and send it to her.

And I like the look of those kettle-dyed Halcyon yarns on p. 125.

And so forth. The richness of American knitting resources dazzles, compared to what we have here. It's fun to look, at the very least.


The Mytob virus really seems to have gone away. What a time it took!

June, I sympathise with the problem posed by a mother who reads one's Blog. I really don't think I could have done it, while my mother was alive.

Grace, if you're there: I saw your comment on the Curmudgeon's Blog, and would have liked to have a look at your Blog, but couldn't figure out how to do it.



Friday, October 28, 2005

The Wallaby, nearing completion Posted by Picasa

The Wallaby is looking good, and its measurements correspond rather well to Fergus's own. I'm a bit worried now that the patterned yoke looks girly, but it's too late to go back. It should be ready for Helen to take back to Thessaloniki with her when she comes for her father's 80th birthday celebrations.

The mother of the baby for whom the recent Surprise is destined, went into hospital with high blood pressure yesterday. Since she was scheduled to have a Caesarian next Tuesday anyway, there may be news today. I'd better wrap up the little package.

I heard from my friend Selma the other day. She and I and four other very dear people have formed a Band of Brothers. We write group letters to each other, mostly but not entirely about knitting, rather like this blog. We haven't met for -- could it be? -- four years now, so the letters are rarer than they used to be. They afford a useful platform for the relief of frustration -- no need to fear the laws of libel, or worry about who might read the message, two considerations which I always bear in mind here.

Anyway, Selma says she is knitting lots of socks with Schaefer's "Anne" sock yarn. I had never heard of it, and so looked it up. Wow! She is also knitting the Eris pullover by Jenna, the Girl from Auntie. I looked that up too, it's gorgeous, and moreover it seemed familiar. I think I must have approached it from a different direction recently. The pattern is available as a zippered jacket, as well as a pullover. Selma must feel as I do about setting zippers into knitting.

Odds and Ends

Persecution by the Mytob virus has, for the moment, stopped. It leaves me feeling rather bereft.

Alexander is puzzled, too, as to how ATT guessed my password. See yesterday.

There's enough of my tooth left to be crowned, the dentist says. That (will be expensive and) needs a long appointment, and there wasn't one available until next Friday. So I'll have to go on frightening the horses with my smile for a while. I got around the current travel-sock a few more times, in the waiting room.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

My latest gloom-dispelling purchase Posted by Picasa

Mostly non-knit

Today I get my new tooth -- or, at least: today I have a dentist's appointment. We have the best dentist in the world, I have no doubt. I used to think he was also the most expensive, but a couple of years ago my husband had a dental crisis in Boston, MA, and we learned the truth.

We got our Flu Injections for the Elderly yesterday. The session was well organised and moved pretty briskly, so the socks advanced only by a round or two.

Don't fail to read Franklin's latest blog entry.

I bought another saucepan yesterday -- and they haven't even put the clocks back yet.

Computer mystery

Janis W. in CT: I wrote to you yesterday, about mice and things, and the message bounced. Apparently ATT has blacklisted (I am I think my sister and I had this problem once, and I think she was using ATT at the time.

However, that's not the point. Embedded twice in the gobbeldygook that comes back with a bounced email, was the word I use as a password in not-particularly-important contexts, Abebooks and Sainsbury's-to-You and the Jamie Oliver club. It's not the word I use to sign in to Demon, still less is it my bank password; I'm not much bothered about security. But how did ATT get it? I forwarded the problem to Alexander, who makes his living on-line.

A Bit of Knitting

I'm doing the first decrease round on the Wallaby yoke at the moment. With a bit of luck, it'll be picture-worthy by tomorrow.


Don't judge Koigu by the pinks-and-purples at But of course if you order from the US, you risk the dread intervention of the VAT-and-Customs man.

Rachel, thank you for the Ebay tip. I'll get on to it right away.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Thanks to everybody for all the sympathy about teeth and mice. The trouble with the tooth is that it's perfectly comfortable, and there's enough of it left that the wind doesn't whistle through, so I keep forgetting and smiling. My face, I don't mind it/ for I am behind it;/ it's the folks out in front get the jar.

I learned from the Economist yesterday that GWBush is going to visit China on my husband's birthday. I jumped to the conclusion that they couldn't spare their China correspondent that week, although his appearance in Edinburgh is planned as the biggest and best of the birthday surprises. But he assures me this morning: "I'm hoping I can get back in time to write about it, even though I won't have set eyes on him."

It's wonderful how Bush has succeeded in uniting the nation at last, by nominating Mrs Meirs.


A hospital appointment yesterday -- routine diabetic maintenance -- advanced the current travel-socks an inch or so. And I should reach the first decrease-line in the Wallaby yoke this evening.

I'm afraid I can't recommend a Koigu-supplier, Lorna. My stash was almost entirely acquired from my friend Mary Hughes-Thompson, But Mary has recently sold the business, and when I tried the site this morning I got the dread "page-cannot-be-displayed" page.

I spent a few moments in John Lewis' yarn department yesterday. It was pretty boring. Even the Debbie Bliss "Maya" seemed to be gone.

This is a pretty boring blog entry, too.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A washed-out picture of the striped Koigu, showing first sleeve attached and second, started. Posted by Picasa
Rain Posted by Picasa

Rain, darkness -- and the clocks haven't even gone back yet.

We had a strenuous weekend up north. In our month's absence, the house had been invaded by mice. We used to have a fair amount of trouble with them, 40 years ago, but lately things had been peaceful, live-and-let-live. They nibbled the insulation off exposed water pipes but spared the occasional packet of lentils on a high shelf; I let them alone.

Not this time.

The mess was appalling, and of course included a lot of things of no use to mice, like a packet of Brillo pads. The saddest loss was of some seed potatoes of rare breeds, saved from this year's crop and carefully left, under an Arabic nespaper, on a table in an upstairs bedroom. I've brought the remains back; all is not utterly lost.

So the days were spent cleaning, and securing every mouse-worthy item in the kitchen in jars and tins (where I won't find them next time). We caught quite a few, eight in fact although one got away. They are pretty little country mice, a different species from the horrid House Mouse, but they make just as much mess. If not more. Our last night there, we didn't catch any, which seemed rather encouraging. Time will tell.

So, not much knitting. I finished the first sleeve of Rachel's striped Koigu, picked up stitches around the armhole, did a three-needle bind-off. I'm rather pleased with the effect. The stripes made it easy to deal with the problem of row-to-stitch gauge. I picked up three stitches from every (five-row) black stripe, four from the coloured ones, and that pretty well took care of it.

And I started the second sleeve. And discovered that ribbing, not my favourite practice, is much easier back-and-forth, as here, than it is round-and-round, as on the sock I started the week before in London. Why?

It was raining so hard yesterday morning that I didn't dare take the camera outside. So the traditional garden picture was taken from the sitting-room window. It's not very good.

On Sunday I broke a front tooth. I haven't been able to get a dentist's appointment until Thursday. Consider yourself fortunate that this isn't a live webcam.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Current state of the Wallaby Posted by Picasa

We hope to go to Strathardle today. The Blog will resume on Tuesday if all goes according to plan.

No Mytab virus messages this morning, although the persecution was worse than ever all day yesterday. It's not the Sabbath yet, either, so there goes that theory.

That picture gives a not-too-bad impression of the Wallaby with its new knit-and-purl pattern in the yoke. Sort of, very vaguely, like brocade. It will have to appear in bands, as I need to interrupt it fairly soon for a k2, k2tog decrease row which couldn't possibly be incorporated into the pattern. There will then be two further bands, each narrower than the last, and two further decrease rows. The pattern offers a stopping-point every three rows so it shouldn't be difficult. The plan is to put in a couple of plain rounds, do the actual decreases on a purl round, and then a couple more plain ones before the next band of pattern.

Thank you, Franklin and June, for your comments and sympathy yesterday about the youthful Alexander in his motto-less sweater. There used to be a tasty and cheap restaurant in Oxford called the Munchy Munchy, perhaps on Park End Street, not all that far from the station. Was it an early example of the now-ubiquitous Thai? Is it there still? It had, anyway, a fierce proprietess who actually made Alexander blush once by telling him NOT to sit down until she had assigned him a place. We often lunched there, with both sons, when James was at New College. The dragon-lady won my heart once by saying that she remembered we had been there before -- she remembered the sweaters.



Thursday, October 20, 2005

Alexander in his sweater, long ago Posted by Picasa

Thank you for the sympathy, Lorna. My husband has never been one to speak carelessly or thoughtlessly; he must have known what he was doing. (This relates to yesterday's entry.)

So here is a picture, dredged from the archives, of a youthful, hirsute Alexander wearing the sweater in question -- sans lettering, of course -- in the front quad at Balliol, 25 years ago. Nowadays he is clean-shaven, and has a good deal less hair on top, as well.


I got this in an email fromThessaloniki yesterday: "When I put on my diagonal stripy cardigan [] the other day, Mungo commented that it was like his and Fergus said grandmother is making me one...."

I hope he's not going to be disappointed that there are no stripes.

I think the knit-and-purl pattern looks well; it's hard to tell at the beginning. It's from Woolgathering 69. I may attempt to photograph it tomorrow.




Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My new tee-shirt, with Franklin's cartoon Posted by Picasa

Comments from Joe AND Mar AND Franklin yesterday. Almost as good as being at Rhinebeck, although not quite. I'm glad you like Heirloom Knitting, Franklin, costly though it be. I don't think it found its place on a bookshelf once in the first six months I owned it.

Franklin's tee-shirt, "The New Yoga", arrived yesterday. It's wonderful -- that heavy, comforting cotton that the British just don't seem to have access to. The artist has drawn inspration, consciously or unconsciously, from the famous late antique statue of Laocoon wrestling with the sea serpents, and thus it elegantly combines two of my major interests in life. And -- British readers note -- there was no duty to pay., but the site is down this morning.

I joined the sleeves to the body of the Wallaby yesterday, as hoped, and started up the yoke. I'm putting the knit-and-purl pattern in. It'll make it easier to count the rounds, if nothing else. Too early to say what it looks like.

Sad Story from Long Ago

Perhaps I'll tell you my rather sad writing-on-a-sweater story, inspired by Franklin's brilliantly successful Rhinebeck sweater with its quotation from Seneca.

Many years ago, during my major Fair Isle phase, I knit a sweater full of dark, muddy colours for Alexander who was then at Balliol (College, Oxford). I designed a motto for it, to go around the yoke, like the inscriptions you find on big bells: JMM me fecit GADM me gerit Coll Bal me videt AMDG. (JMM made me GADM wears me Balliol Coillege sees me AMDG) (If I had never knit that sweater, I would never have noticed that Alexander's initials are an anagram of AMDG which stands for "To the greater glory of God", in Latin.)

When it was nearly finished but not quite, we went to Oxford for a day, as we often did in those days, and over lunch my husband told Alexander that Mummy was knitting him a sweater and "it has writing on it". He was, quite properly, horrified, and there was nothing I could do but rip it out. But I think if he had seen the finished sweater, with the lettering sort of disappearing into the dark colours, it would have been all right.

I still feel a bit sore when I think of it.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My new sock yarn, from the Ally Pally. It's called "Socka", but the word doesn't mean what it once did. Posted by Picasa

You're right, Emma -- the sock yarn (above) came from Web of Wool (at the Knitting and Stitching Show). I enjoyed the Get Knitting stand, although I too missed the Koigu. There couldn't have been much of it. And I hope you have a lovely time with your Wensleydale. Thank you for the GirlfromAuntie link -- nice patterns. Although I'm never going to attempt to set a zipper into knitting again, thank you.

I finished the second sleeve of the Wallaby last night, and should therefore join it to the body this evening. And finally decide whether or not to incorporate a simple knit-and-purl pattern in the yoke.

I didn't put the Princess away, in the end. Surely I will finish the Wallaby pretty briskly, and could allow myself another half a dozen rows before I start the First Holy Communion veil. The event isn't until late April.

Queer Joe and the Curmudgeon and Franklin have all posted their accounts of Rhinebeck -- Joe includes pictures of my friend Selma. I'm pretty jealous.


Thomas-the-Elder's belated 21st birthday dinner was great fun. We all went out to a delicious Thai restaurant and drank champagne and ate well. My brother-in-law was the official photographer. I should have something to show soon. The only knitting present, I think, except perhaps for some concealed socks, was a shawl my sister was wearing. Rachel said that she'd like an informal, colourful shawl. (She's got Amedro's Cobweb Evening Wrap, in black.) That's a fun think to think about. I love knitting them, but they look silly on me and I didn't think anyone else wanted one. I suggested the idea to my sister-in-law once, and she rejected it with a shudder.


Persecution by Mytob continues. We'll be in Strathardle this weekend, insh'Allah, so I won't be able to observe whether it lets up for the Sabbath again.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Current state of the Wallaby Posted by Picasa

Somewhat restored. Thank you for the welcome-home, Laurie.

When we were waiting for our train north on Saturday morning, I discovered I was low on cash (a fairly common experience, in London) and had to explore the station thoroughly to discover a functioning cash machine. I am happy to report that Platform 9 3/4 is now signposted at King's Cross, not far from Platform 9. There are no tracks there, of course, let alone trains, and no explanation of the sign. All as it should be.

I finished row 16 (no difficulty) of the Princess shawl edging last night, and today will put it sadly and carefully away. I knit on, on the second Wallaby sleeve. Above is the current state of play. It looks too small, but I trust that is an illusion.

Lorna, alas, there is not much scope on the Christening shawl ( for playing with lace patterns. I can perhaps substitute something else for the head bit, and can certainly indulge myself in selecting a different edging from Sharon's book when we get as far as edging it. But piety dictates the rest. It's not very large -- it shouldn't take long. I'll use Sharon's merino lace, the yarn I started doing the Princess in until she intervened personally to stop me (when I switched to her gossamer merino). The merino lace comes in a wonderful range of colours, but alas! I have no option in that sphere, either.

The Ally Pally

All my Blog-friends must have been to Rhinebeck last weekend. I await their reports breathlessly. Meanwhile, I can say with some confidence that I won't go back again to the Knitting and Stitching Show at the Alexandra Palace. It wasn't an absolute waste of time, but it's expensive to get in, very hot, very crowded, and the considerable majority of the vendors had nothing to do with knitting. A lot of the others were British vendors whom I knew well anyway.

Not a total waste of time, however. The one really exciting thing was the Japanese display. gives perhaps something of the flavour, but doesn't seem to include photographs of the magical objects we saw (my husband came along, which cramped my style somewhat). I also saw some alpaca yarn from a vendor whose ads I know, and I didn't care for the colours. I saw some Wensleydale, similarly (those are the sheep with dreadlocks, if I've got it right) and did like the colours. I have knitted with Wensleydale in the past -- it's a lovely, silky yarn. I saw and handled samples of both hemp and bamboo yarn, and liked the feel and the drape and the colours. I found a booth devoted to German sock yarns (, I think) and the entire display was what I think might qualify as funky, certainly resulting in socks that only females would wear, except for a very small section from which I bought a man's-socks-worth of a deep red yarn. Recent developments in sock yarn are very sad, gentleman-wise, thinking of the Socka range in the Patternworks catalogue ten years ago.


I continue to be plagued with the Mytob virus. Fully half of the email I downloaded on Saturday evening, early, when we got home, consisted of it. Then I had a respite, when I logged in again late on Saturday and for most of yesterday. It was in full flow by Sunday evening, and again this morning. This sort of thing has happened on previous weekends. Could an American Jewish computer be the culprit? (American, because of the time-lag.) I have never had an individual virus-attack last so long.



Sunday, October 16, 2005

Rachel's socks, finished (and indeed washed) Posted by Picasa
The new socks Posted by Picasa

Back again, somewhere beyond tired. The narrative can be doled out over the next few days, sort of like the Games.

Start with knitting. I finished the current travel socks on the train south, Kitchener'd them that evening and gave them to Rachel. That is a picture of them drying after their first wearing and it conveys, perhaps, a hint of why Lizzie's First Holy Communion veil hasn't come to light.

Then I started the next pair, for my husband. London isn't terribly conducive to knitting, especially last week, when we were actually out on two separate, consecutive evenings, a thing which hasn't happened to us since the late 70's, if then. But I got a certain amount done on the train north yesterday.

In the evening I thought it unwise to attempt to finish row 16 of the Princess Shawl border. Easy as it is, one gets slightly rusty after a week away, and I was tired, tired. I resumed Fergus' Wallaby instead. An important step forward, I feel. There can always be a slight difficulty in finding one's way back into a project one has put aside. But all went well, and I made good progress on the second sleeve.

So that's that. Guys and Dolls, Thomas-the-Elder's belated 21st birthday dinner, the Knitting and Stitching Show at the Ally Pally, and the London Art Scene will all have to wait.


Monday, October 10, 2005

Inching forward -- but probably not even that Posted by Picasa
Work in progress Posted by Picasa

Off to London

We're going away today. We should be back on Saturday; Blogging will re-commence on Sunday, with a full account of the delights of the metropolis -- including the vital question of whether Rachel was able to find that First Holy Communion veil. I'm pretty sure they still lived in Balham when Lizzie made her First Holy Communion -- that means there's been a move-of-house since, to Clapham, which must considerably reduce the chances of its turning up.

Above, the current state of the Princess Shawl edging, somewhere in row 16. I'll finish row 16 when we get back, and then that's it, at least until the Wallaby is done, probably until I've knit the replacement veil. I love the way the work piled up on the table looks weightless, so I've included a picture of that, too. The shot glass holds stitch markers. I drink cider from a larger vessel.

I ordered my "New Yoga" tee-shirt from Franklin yesterday: 


I've often copied out Su-Doku grids, when I realise I've gone wrong somewhere and need to start fresh. You're right, JoVE, it's the way to proceed in London, leaving the newspaper fresh for grandson Joe. And pride goes before a fall: I cantered through the Independent on Sunday one yesterday, rated "challenging", but couldn't get much past first base with the Sunday Times.

Lisa, thank you for your very kind message. Rhinebeck with Mar and Joe and Franklin! What a thought! I've been to Camp Stitches twice, and to East itself -- now, Rhinebeck is the summit of my dreams. At least if one were a Muslim, Mecca would stay in the same place.

And speaking of religion, we had the annual Red Mass yesterday, to pray for wisdom for the legal profession at the start of the legal year. Scotland's lawyers were well represented, in full fig, and we now have a resident Cardinal, who looked pretty splendid too. The Holy Spirit must have been impressed. For the rest of us, it is an annual occasion to be reminded of the source of the term "bigwig". The higher you rise in the legal profession, the more horsehair you wear on your head.



Sunday, October 09, 2005

Franklin's "The New Yoga" tee-shirt: I've got to have one!

I'm doing row 14 of the Princess Shawl  edging -- there'll be enough for a farewell progress picture before we leave for London tomorrow. Row 14 is presenting slight difficulties.

Today dawns set to be an usually stressful day-before-we-go-to-London, in areas even knitting can't reach.

I am immensely cheered, however, by your comment, Obscure, agreeing with my aesthetic judgment on furry scarves. I had been running down the list of grown women I give Christmas presents to, visualizing them one by one in such a thing, and recoiling with horror from the mental image. But you mention little girls. That hadn't occurred to me. There are two, in Beijing, where it gets very cold in the winter. They are rather girl-y little girls. I think I may have got a couple of Christmas presents (except for the actual knitting, of course).

Back to Cookery

It is interesting, Judith, that you mention Caerphilly as a substitute for mozzarella in the recipe we have been discussing this week (appended to Wednesday's post, I think). Forty-eight years ago, when I was an undergraduate in Glasgow, and mozzarella was unheard-of in this country, that was the cheese I used as a substitute when making an ersatz pizza, and it worked quite well. Therefore, well worth a try here. Maybe I'll do it in Rachel's kitchen in London, where I don't have to worry about what's-for-supper.

And other non-knit

I have become a Su-Doku addict, like most of the rest of the United Kingdom. It's a logic puzzle, done on an 81-square nine-by-nine grid, invented by the Japanese. All the newspapers except the Financial Times now print one daily. Googling will produce more information if by chance it is desired.

Rachel says that her son Joe is equally enthusiastic, and I look forward to conferring with him on the subject this week. I have recently upped my game, and can now usually (not always) do the ones rated Tough, and have a fair stab at the Diabolicals. The secret is a sharp pencil and a good eraser -- at the beginning, I thought I was above such humble aids. We will have to get in an extra newspaper. It would be tough on a chap to suffer a day at school and come home to find that Granny had solved the Su-Doku.



Saturday, October 08, 2005

My new yarn Posted by Picasa

That's the KF yarn I had to ransom from the Post Office the other day. I must start leafing through his books again, always a pleasure. Queer Joe and Thaddeus are about to entertain the great man in their Very House, although the conversation will be more about quilting than knitting. I am struck dumb with awe at the thought.

I met him very briefly once when he was doing a talk for Rowan at Rackham's in Birmingham, where we then lived. It was a gloomy November evening and not many people turned up. Had he sulked -- and I have heard that he is capable of it -- it would have been ghastly. But he gave us the full charm and enthusiasm for 20 minutes or so, and left us, magically, talking among ourselves as if he had been a host getting the party going. I got him to sign my first edition of Glorious Knitting, feeling pretty schoolgirlish.

But, golly, Joe! a whole evening!

I've reached row 12 of the Princess Border. All goes well. I've pressed the Peg-It board back into service, just in case. But I've also fetched the incomplete Wallaby out of the cupboard so that it can lie there accusingly. I must, I will resume knitting it when we get back from London.

I went to the oculist yesterday and got my glasses fine-tuned for the results of the second cataract operation. He says that my plastic eyes will not slowly degrade as the flesh-and-blood ones did. The effect of the whole world digitally-remastered is stronger than ever, and still disconcerting.

He also said, seeing my knitting, that his wife is knitting as Christmas presents those furry, slinky scarves so beloved at the moment of yarn departments. They're very quick to do, he said, and I was briefly tempted. The trouble is, on reflection, I think they're hideous. And does anyone wear them? Edinburgh is full of people wearing scarves, but I don't see any of those. Maybe it's too early in the season. I think Hellie Ogden will be briefly home from Newcastle University next weekend, so I will see her in London and can ask. She will certainly know what's In and what isn't.


JoVE, thank you for the idea of consulting Valvona and Crolla's website for Christmas presents. Or even making that an excuse to go back to the shop. Fortunately for our solvency in old age, it's just far enough away not to be a daily temptation.

Pamela, no, I didn't eat the lemon skins after all, although I did eat the delicious interiors I had had to scoop out to make room for the cheese. And I did use fresh mozzarella di bufala, packed in brine. Whatever the trouble it wasn't that. I am now so sure that I didn't leave them in the oven long enough that I am about to try again.

Friday, October 07, 2005

limoni di amalfi Posted by Picasa


Eating and Knitting

Janis -- stay your hand!

Yesterday I got a card with the morning mail to say that the Post Office was holding a package for me on which quite a lot of money had to be paid. I knew what that was -- the KF Magyar kit I'd won on Ebay, arriving from California. Yarn is duty-able but I'd got my last two or three packages in under the radar, and was beginning to think that I was above the law (to mix a metaphor). Not so.

So I trudged up to the Post Office and got it. The route leads past the door of what is undoubtedly the best Italian grocer in Britain, Valvona and Crolla -- with prices to match. On the way back, I stopped in, figuring that I couldn't do myself too much harm with my arms encumbered by a large, awkward box of yarn, and my wallet much depleted. I bought a packet of crinkly spaghetti and then proceeded to the fresh fruit and veg, ignoring temptation to the right and left like Odysseus sailing past the Sirens. Any fresh garlic? No. But they had -- Amalfi lemons.

What could I do? I bought two. I already had the other ingredients. I tried the recipe (Wednesday's post). It wasn't terribly successful. I wonder if I cooked it long enough? Jamie says "golden and bubbling". Perhaps mine hadn't quite reached that stage. The taste was interesting enough, but the cheese was tough and chewy. Not much use as an appetiser if it only lasts four minutes after coming out of the oven.

So be warned, Janis, and if you do try it, please let me know how you get on. The pith, by the way, should remain in the lemons when you remove the interior.


So tomorrow we'll have a picture of the Magyar yarn. It's all sort of worsted weight -- not one of the patterns in which the Great Man uses fine yarns doubled or trebled to increase the colour interest to fever pitch.

I'm within a few stitches of the end of row 9 of the Princess Shawl border. It's easy enough that I can knit right through the evening Tiredness Tsunami. Row 10, however, involves an interesting asymetricality. But of course, that'll be where I start, today.


Two separate heroes of mine commented yesterday, Mar and Franklin. Many thanks. Sometimes I think I'd get more comments if I ranted occasionally, or had a more interesting life. Other times, like this one, I feel greatly blessed with the readership I've got.



Thursday, October 06, 2005

I finished it. Posted by Picasa

There it is. If there's one thing I don't like doing, it's sewing on buttons.

I then happily picked up the Princess Shawl, and knit row 7 of the border. I had a bit of trouble with it, until I got back into my stride. Row 8 looks like a doddle. I think I'll keep on with it for the remaining four days before we go to London. When we get back, I'll know whether a second First Holy Communion veil is on the cards or not. That is, whether the one I knit for granddaughter Lizzie has turned up, and can be used by her cousins.

Rachel phoned last night -- lots seems to be going on down there. Ketki is in Japan. My sister and her husband, last heard of in Malawi, are in London. Thomas-the-Elder is about to start a four-month internship at the MorganFleming bank where Ketki works. Hellie, in Newcastle, has discovered that university life involves reading a lot of books, as well as clubbing. No mention of any veils.

I had a look at the pattern ( I'm not sure I entirely understand it any more, but I hope it will come right in the doing. I'm thinking of using Bridget Rorem's lace alphabet -- I've got that famous copy of Piecework -- to knit an "R" and a "K" into the new veil at some point. Or "RM" and "KM"? Or would that look too much as if they were getting married to each other? R is for Rachel, who will be making her First Holy Communion next April, K for her younger sister Kirsty, the last female grandchild.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The latest issue Posted by Picasa


Oh, Pamela, a lemon tree! The recipe follows below, somewhat condensed from Jamie's verbosity. You're allowed a reasonable amount of quotation in reviewing a book, and in print that often includes a recipe or two, from a recipe book. Alternatively, in the words of the great musical I am going to see again next week, So go on and sue me/ sue me/ what can you do me...

Obscure: Pompeii for convent girls? Yes, indeedy. You should meet a modern convent girl. Seriously, though, there is in Herculaneum the one possible Christian symbol in either site, a Greek-type cross excised into the plaster of an upper room of a villa, where a slave might have slept. The first time we went, I found the stairs leading to it, heavily padlocked. The second time, I stood around for quite a while at the foot of the stairs, fingering a large-denomination lire note. The third time, I went to the site office and talked to a nice man. I pointed out that the mala casa in Pompeii was heavily restored and had many visitors, whereas it was within the bounds of possibility that once, in that room, had lived un povero Christiano che a sentito San Paolo stesso predicando (when he was landed somewhere around there on his way to Rome as a prisoner) (or something). And the man took a big key out of a drawer and we got to see the room. Some of the girls came away with the impression that St Paul had lodged there, but you can't explain everything to everybody.

Knitting, and Knitting Magazines

I've done all but about an inch of the i-cord. I've bought the buttons. So there is every reason to hope that I'll finish the Surprise today.

The October issue of Knitting has arrived. I don't know what to do about that magazine. It's not entirely bad, but the patterns aren't very good, either. It has yet to print one that interests me, let alone one that makes it to my HALFPINT list. I could no more throw away a knitting magazine than I could strangle a kitten, so the pile grows and space diminishes. And I applaud what it's trying to do, and if nothing else it has lots of ads for British suppliers who otherwise have nowhere to advertise.

Woolgathering turned up yesterday. Not a sterling issue, but I would keep Woolgathering on, I think, if I had to give up everything else. (=Knitting, as above; IK, VK, Knitter's) It is exciting to learn that Bridget Rorem is working on a lace book.

limoni di amalfi cotti al forno

This is an antipasto, far too fiddly for me.

Take two large lemons. Cut off and discard the ends. Cut them in half crossways and remove the flesh with a small knife, leaving you with four hollow circles of skin. Place each on a lemon leaf (or on a square of greaseproof paper if you don't happen to have a lemon tree). Cut a piece from a ball of buffalo mozzarella to fit inside. Lay on it a basil leaf, half an anchovy fillet and half a cherry tomato, with salt and pepper and dried chilli if you like. Put another slice of mozzarella on top.

Cook for 10 or 15 minutes in a hot oven (200 C/400 F). Allow to cool slightly, serve the mozzarrella, now melted and golden, with hot grilled crostini, being sure to scoop up any juices. You're not actually supposed to eat the lemon skins, although I'm sure if I ever toiled through this recipe, I would do so. 


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A lemon, in Ravello Posted by Picasa

I dealt with the ends on the Baby Surprise, sewed the shoulders, and started i-cording it.

JoVE, thank you for the advice. I've got a row of Debbie Bliss books, but alas not that one -- I eventually stopped buying them when I realised that, much as I sort of admired the patterns, I never got around the knitting any of them. And the books I do have, don't have anything about finishing.

I used lots of pins, and rolled up a pillowcase to serve as a seam pad, and attempted mattress stitch, and I think the result does look rather well. A table wasn't feasible, although I take the point. My knitting time is largely confined to about an hour and a half in the early evening, when we watch our soap and the news and something on tape -- Frasier, perhaps, or the Simpsons -- while my husband tests his blood sugar and injects insulin and waits a while as required and then has tea. I could absent myself to sit at the kitchen table and sew seams, but it wouldn't be very friendly.


I bought Jamie Oliver's new book yesterday, heavily discounted at Sainsbury's. He's my favourite celeb cook, at the moment. This one is called Jamie's Italy. ("jamie's italy", rather) There's a recipe in it for Amalfi Baked Lemons.

I've been there. On three separate occasions, in the 80's, a colleague and I took parties of girls from the convent school where we taught to see the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum and all that stuff. We did it ourselves, booking pensione and coach and rail tickets directly (and this in the days before the Internet) and thus saving remarkable amounts of money over the prices quoted in the school travel brochures, quite apart from doing everything exactly as we pleased.

On one occasion, after a worthy day spent among the temples of Paestum, we stopped at Amalfi and Ravello. Ravello is not north or south or east or west of Amalfi, but directly above it. One ascends by hair-pin turns up a cliff face, as I remember. My colleague and I were sitting in the cafe opposite the cathedral there having a well-earned glass of something, when the man above came in with that lemon, which he showed proudly to his friends. I asked if I could take the picture you see.

Not much later, he cut it into slices and handed them round, including one each for me and my colleague. We ate the whole thing, skin and all. It was meltingly delicious.

It's the sort of thing one always intends to do -- and this time, I am pleased to remember, I actually did it. I sent a copy of that picture to "The cafe across from the Cathedral, Ravello" and thanked him again in my halting Italian for the memory of "quello limone emorme e squisito."


Monday, October 03, 2005

Could I have done something wrong? Posted by Picasa
Ah, that must be it! Posted by Picasa

I've finished the Surprise, except for finishing it. Franklin's friend Sahara says to work at a table, to use lots of pins, to master mattress stitch. Will mattress stitch work when chalk is being joined to cheese -- a cast-on or cast-off edge to a side edge? I'll try, anyway.

I think you can see from the second picture above (if it's there) the slight flaw in the double-breasted version of the Surprise -- when the fronts are pulled across each other, the side folds (you can't call them seams) are pulled slightly forward, and don't sppear immediately under the arms. But as I've already said, with a small, plump and shapeless person inside, you don't notice.

I've got to go up to the Building Society tomorrow morning -- I'll nip over to John Lewis for buttons and some baby-type wrapping paper.

Once all that is done, I'll allow myself a few more rows of Princess (four, perhaps) before picking up Fergus's one-armed Wallaby again.

Two wonderful comments again yesterday. I envy you your multiple skills, Kateri. If I had another couple of lifetimes at my disposal, I would certainly learn to spin; and patchwork-quilt making is another craft I'd like to attempt. I've sort of been through dressmaking and out the other side. I think my last attempt was making a bridesmaid's dress for granddaughter Hellie for James and Cathy's wedding. It came out all right, but enough is enough.


I heard last night about misfortunes which have befallen someone I thoroughly dislike -- with reason, I think. I am saddened and disconcerted. I expect the wicked to flourish like the green bay tree while I hug my grievances and feel sorry for myself. I am forced, by this news, to reflect on how very fortunate we are, in our children, our houses, our health. My husband and I, between us, have already had twelve active and productive years beyond our statuatory threescore and ten.

I am sorry, too, about the people whp died on Lake George. I am never likely to go to Bali; I would, indeed, resist an invitation. But I have ridden in a cruise-type boat on beautiful Lake George, when I was there at Camp Stitches in 1999 and again in 2000. It felt utterly safe.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

Seahouses Pattern I -- Mrs Laidlaw's Pattern Posted by Picasa

I persevered doggedly with the Surprise last night and covered, as hoped, pretty well half the distance between where I was and the goal. Long rows of garter stitch do not offer the intellectual excitement -- no exaggeration in that phrase -- afforded by a couple of pattern repeats on the Princess Shawl.

Kerry, the yarn is Koigu Premium Merino. I had a vendor friend send me six skeins of an aran-y white and six of colours of her choosing.

Above is a pattern I thought of as a possibility for my dream-cardigan, prompted by Lorna's kind reference to the site. It's from Gladys Thompson's "Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys & Arans". The Arans were an afterthought, I suspect, requested by the publisher because Aran was getting popular at the time (1969). The interest of the book is the fishermen's patterns she collected from the north of England and Scotland. She went to the fishing villages and copied the patterns from men's backs and clothes lines, if need be.

It was, for me anyway, the first book that took "peasant knitting" seriously and researched it properly.

The pattern above is called the Seahouses pattern (Seahouses being the name of a village near Whitby; Yorkshire, I think). It's all done with knits and purls. It needs proper guernsey wool (tightly twisted), as above, and smallish needles, to keep the sea out. I could relax the needle size a bit, and just stay away from the water.

But all this depends on the news from London. If Rachel can't find her daughter Lizzie's First Holy Communion veil, that'll be my winter project -- a veil for the new Rachel Miles, who will be making her First Holy Communion in Beijing next April.


Thank you, as always for comments. I hope I've said how much I love comments. Donna, I'll try that excercise when I step out this morning (we don't have any stairs internally). I do wear gel pads. I think the heel is somewhat better this morning. It must have been that strenuous walk on Friday.

Anne, I don't remember. Blame senility. I feel bad about it. But, yes, James is still in Beijing -- or, again there, depending on how long ago we corresponded. He's now the China man for the Economist magazine. His younger daughter was born not long before they went out, and he and his wife brought her up with Chinese as her first language for her first three or four years.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Surprise -- latest Posted by Picasa