Welcome, nau mai, haere mai!
Come on in and stay a little while. . . you never know what you might find!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Eat. . . Easter Biscuits

This year's Easter biscuits, baked 22nd April.

I have memories of my Dad making these biscuits almost every Easter, way back when. . . way back when I was a child living in South Wales. It turns out that Easter Biscuits are a tradition based in the South-West of England, which makes sense as that is where he is from. Unfortunately, I don't have the exact recipe that dad used, but this year and last I have used a variation on the one in my "A Second Helping - More from Ladies, a Plate" book by Alexa Johnston, with a nod to the Easter Bunny Biscuits recipe I found online. I also more than doubled the amount of spice and lemon used in either recipe, for extra flavour. I found an excellent blog called "Baking for Britain" which has lots of history on the origin of Easter Biscuits as well as a recipe for Sedgemoor Easter Cakes (which are actually biscuits!) Sadly it seems that the "Baking for Britain" blog ground to a halt last November, but there are still lots of archives to trawl through. . .

Anyway, here's the recipe I used:

Easter Biscuits

10 oz/280 g butter, softened
8 oz/230 g caster sugar (and extra for the tops)
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
4 egg yolks (keep one egg white to brush on the tops, and use the rest in a pavlova!!)
1 lb/450 g plain white flour
3/4 cup currants
3 tsps ground cinnamon

  • Preheat oven to 190C/375F and line several baking sheets with baking paper. 
  • Cream butter, sugar and lemon rind together then add egg yolks and mix well. 
  • Mix in flour, currants and cinnamon until you have a stiff paste. Refrigerate the dough for at least 15 mins to make it more workable.
  • Roll out thinly (about 2-3 mm thick) and cut out large circles or Easter shapes from the dough. 
  • Place biscuits on baking -apered tins, then brush biscuit tops with lightly whisked egg white and sprinkle generously with sugar.
  • Bake for 15 mins or so, aiming for a light golden colour. 
  • These keep well in an airtight tin.
  • Enjoy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Love. . . Auckland's Japanese $3.50 shop!

I got back from Auckland on Wednesday night, but not before I had been introduced to the wonders of the Daiso Japanese $3.50 shop! I got the recommendation from a friendly raveller who met me in Auckland on Sunday to give me some paper cranes towards my 1000 for Christchurch. It turns out Daiso is "Japan's no. 1 ranking livingware supplier". Any 3 items for $10! I went in there looking for origami paper, and came out with lots of it, in various sizes. I also got tempted by various cute Japanese "livingware" including several sushi moulds, Nori punches, flower-shaped cutters for vegetables, wiggly plastic chopping knives (for tofu) and refillable soy sauce bottles with animal head lids! Ok, I freely admit I was like a child in a sweetie shop in there, but never in my life had I seen such a place and I am sure it will be a long time before I see such a place again! Here's my haul of loot. . .

Sonny Jim decided he wanted to cook dinner last night and he used the Japanese flower-shaped cutters to cut flower shaped carrots to put in the soup he was cooking. For the record, he used his Kung Fu Panda recipe for Po's Chicken Noodle Soup and he made two pans of it, one to the original recipe for him and my step-dad (who is staying with us from the UK for a few days) and another pan with the same soup but with veggie stock and shrimps instead of chicken stock and chicken for the non-meat-eaters. He also made a loaf of Mediterranean bread in the bread maker and I can tell you, there were MANY compliments to the chef!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Knit. . . a daffodil for the Cancer Society Domain Lodge

I have just come back from a few days in Auckland, on a work trip, and while I was there I stayed at Domain Lodge, which is run by the Auckland Division of the Cancer Society. The Cancer Society logo is a daffodil, so whilst I was there I knitted a daffodil from unidentified sock yarn scraps, with a bendy straw inside the stem, and presented it to the person at the reception desk before I left. I think they liked it. . . certainly one of the other staff members who put it in her hair and danced around the foyer seemed to ;-) Domain Lodge was a great place to stay by the way, and I certainly recommend it. The daffodil pattern was a free one downloaded via ravelry - "February Gold Daffodil.

The Cancer Society is dear to my heart, because like most of us, lots of dear friends and family members have been affected by cancer. A year and a half ago Sonny Jim and I got our hair shaved off to raise money for the Cancer Society. . . it was all the young lad's idea and between us we raised NZ$1,500 for the Nelson branch of the Cancer Society! Also saved ourselves a load of  money on haircuts for the next year! 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Eat. . . Louise Cake

Louise cake with plum jam, baked 12.04.11
This is a real Kiwi classic. I had never even heard of it till moving to New Zealand back in 2002. Oh, horrors - 31 years without Louise Cake in my life! I was almost put off it forever though, when I first saw it on sale at a café. The label in the chiller cabinet proudly proclaimed "Lousie Cake" and I wondered why on earth anyone would want to eat it if it was so lousie! Always one for living dangerously, I braved a piece and was smitten! It is a tray-baked slice with a tender shortcake base, spread with a tart red jam and topped with a lightly browned coconut meringue. It's a big hit with all of us in our family, and one of Sonny Jim's friends came round to play yesterday and he loved it too.

There are so many recipes for Louise Cake available, but the following one is my favourite. It's from Alexa Johnston's wonderful book of traditional NZ home baking: "Ladies a Plate." I highly recommend that book by the way, it is one of my most frequently used recipe books. Alexa gives lots of details in her book re the social history of this recipe (and all the others she shares), but here are the basic details. . .


For the base:
2.5 oz/70 g butter
2 oz/55 g sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tblsp lemon juice
5 oz/140 g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the topping:
5 tblsps raspberry jam (or other tart, red jam - I used my homemade plum jam this time)
2 egg whites
4 oz/115 g caster sugar
2 oz/55 g desiccated coconut

  • Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Grease/line a shallow 12 x 8 "/30 x 21 cm tin. Soften the butter.
  • Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and beat well. Add lemon juice, sift flour and baking powder over and mix to stiff dough.
  • Press dough evenly into prepared tin. At this stage it will only be a thin layer, but it puffs up during cooking. Spread the jam evenly over the base.
  • Beat egg whites till stiff, then gently fold in caster sugar and coconut using a metal spoon.
  • Spread coconut meringue mixture over the jam, trying to keep it an even thickness. Sprinkle with a little extra coconut if you like. 
  • Bake for 25 mins or until the coconut meringue is just turning golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and cut into squares or fingers while still warm. Leave in tin to cool. Store airtight. 
If you haven't tried this before, give it a go ;-) It's number 6 in the Edmonds Cookbook "New Zealand's top 10 favourite baked goods" according to something I read on the internet. And you know you can always trust what you read on the internet, eh?!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fold. . . 1000 paper cranes update

Cranes folded by work colleagues and me
For the full story, see this blog post. I have been folding these cranes on and off for a few weeks now and above you can see a photo of the paper cranes I have folded, along with some contributed by workmates during lunch breaks. Between us we have folded 44, which might not seem like much, but that's quite a lot of folding! On Wednesday this week when I got to work there were two envelopes waiting for me and they were literally bulging with paper cranes! 28 of them, sent by an exceptionally kind Christchurch resident, "S-L".
Cranes just arrived from "S-L" in CHCH
I have never met this woman, but her kindness in both actions and words is amazing and humbling, particularly given that she lives right in Christchurch, which has been so badly affected by earthquakes since last September. Along with the beautiful little cranes, she sent a note in each envelope that gave me a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat - I was so touched by what she wrote. Here is a little snippet: "The fact you wanted to honour our lost made me want to honour you through giving you what I could. As I have folded, I have put as much blessings, hope, peace and eventually happiness into them, and I hope as you string them together, these blessings flow onto you and your loved ones too."
All the cranes so far. . . 72/1000
We've got a long way to go yet until the 1000 cranes are completed, but with amazing people around like S-L, I am sure we will get there.

If any of you reading this would like to help out, the instructions on how to fold an origami crane are here and you can e-mail me at yarnificationz (at) gmail (dot) com for a postal address. Next school term I am planning to ask my son's class teacher if I can get his class involved in the project too . . . I will offer to go in and show them how to fold the cranes and each child can fold at least two - one for the 1000 Cranes Project and one for themselves. Watch this space :-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Love. . . the electronic revolution in fibrecrafts

Podcast Logo from Colleen AF Venable (via Flickr)

You know, when I look back over the last five years of crafting, it's amazing to think how far I have come as far as embracing technology goes! Even a mere four years ago I had never downloaded a knitting pattern from the internet, ravelry wasn't yet a daily habit and I had never heard of podcasts, let alone any fibrecraft ones. It wasn't quite the first, but the Cast On podcast started on 31st October 2005 and although it has waxed and waned in episode frequency, it has remained a constant favourite of mine. It is produced very professionally by Brenda Dayne, an American woman living in Wales with her partner Tonya and their pets. It was back in 2007, when I was flicking through a knitting magazine in a local shop that I spotted an article on Brenda Dayne and her Cast On podcast, and my journey into the world of podcasts began. Within a matter of days, I had downloaded all the Cast On audio archives and signed up for several other podcasts too, like David Reidy's Sticks and String. I even found Saturday Morning with Kim Hill from Radio New Zealand was available in a podcast form. Not to mention a whole host of podcasts from my much-missed BBC Radio 4. More recently I have found the iMake podcast (mentioned in my "Guernsey Goodness" blog post.) Podcasts have been a very positive addition to my life. . . but for such a long time there was no New Zealand-based knitting or generally crafty podcast to be found. For a while, I even considered trying to produce one of my own, but my abysmal technical skills defeated me before I had even put up a trial episode!

Imagine my excitement in 2009 when I saw an announcement on http://ravelry.com that there was a new podcast, and a New Zealand one at that! Not just a knitting podcast either, but a multi-craftual one, encompassing knitting, spinning, weaving, sewing and a whole lot more. The "icing on the cake" for me, is that all this craftiness is teamed up with baking, another one of my favourite activities. This podcaster seemed to have come up with a local podcast that was just what I was looking for! The name of the podcast? "Crafternoon Tea with Granny G." Granny G has regaled us with tales of her crafty life and an abundance of baking and local interviews, ever since her first podcast back in September 2009. If you haven't listened to any of Crafternoon Tea before, then I highly recommend it. Here's a link to the very first episodes. Granny G is very easy to listen to and it feels like you are sitting around the kitchen table having a chat while she bakes, sews, spins etc in the background!

At the beginning of the year, Granny G published a beautiful NZ-themed knitting pattern - "Tiki Mittens."  I was amongst the first to buy and download the pattern and knitted them up as fingerless mitts for my lovely Wifie. . . I used some grey 4 ply Patons Patonyle yarn along with some 3 ply Knittery Merino Slim Sock, which I dyed jade green using food grade acid dyes bought from Morag of Vintage Purls.
Tiki mitts for Wifie - Jan 2011
Granny G has always been a very regular podcaster, so when there was a bit of a lengthy silence after her latest episode released on 31st January 2011, I thought something must be up. Not sure what, but something must be going on! Sure enough, on 2nd March, Granny G posted in her Crafternoon Tea ravelry group to explain why she had been missing from our iPods! This is what she said:

"I’m sure you’ve noticed by now the lack of new episodes… you have, haven’t you?
There is a good reason. I’ve not announced it, as each week I was hoping to upload a new episode, especially as I’ve two awesome interviews on hand which just need editing and releasing.
So what is the reason? Well back in January, I had too much coffee and decided it was an excellent idea to start a magazine. A digital only fibre craft magazine. I’m up to my ears in getting the preview issue out ready for March 20th or thereabouts, with the first full issues available in May/June.
You may have noticed the ad’s running below, for entangled magazine, well that’s me!
If all goes to plan, I should be able to get back to podcasting in the next few months. There will be occasional blog posts, and I will still be around here."
So, there you have it. Granny G/Genny Stevens has started an electronic fibre craft magazine, "Entangled." If the free preview issue is anything to go by, it's going to be a very high quality, visually sumptuous, information-packed magazine! Genny says in the Editor's Note that the preview issue is "a taster, a sample of things to come!" As such, I didn't expect the freebie to be quite so full, but obviously this is going to be no ordinary magazine! Although it's produced in NZ you can sign up for your copy from wherever you live, and as well as viewing it on your computer screen, you can even download it and look at it on your iPad if you are lucky enough to own such a thing (I'm not!) 
In order to get your hands/eyes on a copy of the free preview issue of Entangled, you need to sign up to Zinio. . . but people, if I can negotiate the sign-up process, so can you! You won't be disappointed. And no, before you ask, I'm not on commission for getting you to sign up to look at the preview issue of Entangled - I have never even met Granny G! But the magazine genuinely looks great, and I am all for supporting New Zealand enterprise, especially if it involves an area of life that really interests me, ie fibre crafts. The preview issue has all sorts of interesting articles in it, including a focus on Perendale wool and fleece, some Knit Graffiti (a topic dear to my heart) and a book review of New Zealander Margaret Stove's latest book: Wrapped in Lace.
So there we are. . . where would we fibre crafters be without the internet? Imagine a world with no crafty podcasts, no online yarn shops and Indie dyers, no downloadable patterns either paid or freebies,  and possibly worst of all - no ravelry! Ravelry enables you to check out almost any pattern you can imagine and see several (or thousands of) versions of it, compare yarn choices, get ideas of how to use a particular yarn, organise and share your projects, make networks and friendships with people all over the world, not feel quite so alone in your craft geekery and "much, much more!" So very much more that I think I will devote a whole post to ravelry one day. 
But for now, I am just very grateful for the electronic revolution that has taken place in fibre crafts over the last few years. To some this blending of traditional crafts with high-technology solutions  may seem like a strange juxtaposition, but to me it makes perfect sense. Long may it continue. . .

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Knit. . . W.I.P. round up

For the uninitiated, W.I.P. = Work In Progress.

You see, I haven't actually finished anything in the knitting line for a little while, so I thought it was time to share with you all those things that are part finished (or hardly started, depending on your viewpoint!)

So here's the run-down, in order of date started. . .

Heirloom blanket
The oldest W.I.P. of the lot is my "Heirloom Blanket". I started this project way back in August 2007, after listening to an audiobook by the Yarn Harlot, where she described making an "afghan" using up scraps left over from other random projects. The  idea was that it would be a way to fondly remember all the other things you had knitted, all wrapped up in this one blanket. The idea spoke to me. I embraced it, immediately! I think I cast on that same day. . . 220 sts on a big 6.5 mm circular needle and the "Heirloom Blanket" began. It now weighs almost 1 kg, is 6 ft 2" wide and about 4 ft long. It is a complete mixture of yarns, 8 ply/DK and up. Wool, alpaca, synthetics, cotton, mohair, blends. All gets thrown into the mix together and it comes out looking amazingly good!

Fish blanket
Next up is the interminable fish blanket. This was started in May 2008 and is a real collaboration with lots of people donating scraps of sock yarn for the blanket. Wifie has even knitted a few rainbow fish for the border. I am really putting a lot of effort into getting this one finished this year, and after an entire evening spent sewing on fishes yesterday I am up to 228 fishes sewn on now. I have decided to opt for a square-ish blanket rather than the rectangle I originally planned. The end is in sight. . . and I have to admit it does have a certain charm!

Rainbow bird socks
I started the Rainbow Bird Socks in May 2010, using a Vintage Purls pattern, some black Patons Patonyle sock yarn and some Vintage Purls sock yarn which I dyed in a rainbow colourway myself using acid dyes. I got the first sock finished in November 2010. Five months for one sock! Obviously I wasn't monogamous to this project though, I was busy knitting other things in-between. Since I finished the first sock I have had no motivation to even start the second, but once again, I am determined to get them finished this year as part of my ravelry 12in2011 challenge. I love the pattern, it is really beautiful and quite enjoyable to knit. The trouble is that on reflection, I just don't think I am really a knee-high sock kind of girl. Especially not colourwork knee highs, cos you have to increase to allow for fullness of calf, of which I have much. This means that the sock has quite a flared look to it. Anyway, it is a beautiful design and I am determined to finish it, even if I never really end up wearing them much.

Noro Summit Scarf
Last but not least, we have the Noro Summit Scarf, a relative newcomer started in February this year. This is to use up a ball of Noro Kureyon sock yarn which I have had for a few years, too in awe of it to actually use it. This year I decided it was time to set it free from the stash, and the construction of the Summit shawl/wrap had always intrigued me, so that became its destiny. I like how it's turning out, but other things have somehow got between me and it, like knit graffiti and other projects. . . but I should have this one finished in the next month or so.

That's it - just 4 W.I.P.s at the moment, which is pretty good I reckon. . . maybe next time I will actually have something finished to show you. A pair of knitted slippers has been ordered (I mean "requested") by my mother-in-law, so I will have to get on with those pretty quickly before she heads off on her European trip. . . in the meantime, the fish blanket is calling!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Eat. . . a glut of apples and baking

Local apple tree, March 2011
Autumn is really setting in here, and it seems everywhere you look there are the new season's crisp, fresh apples available for a bargain price. It helps that we live in one of New Zealand's major apple producing areas. Just a few minutes walk away from home is an old "Cool Store" from the Apple and Pear Marketing Board of yesteryear. In addition to all the cheap apples available at roadside stalls, one of my kind and generous work colleagues has provided us with several bags of various breeds of cooking and eating apples from her trees, and one day we came home from dog walk to find a bag of beautiful green apples behind the front door (still haven't worked out who that kind benefactor was). . . so you can see that we have had a rather welcome glut of apples recently.

Of course, our first line of attack was to stew up huge saucepans of delicious stewed apple. Great for adding to porridge with cinnamon or berries, mixing with natural yogurt, or adding to breakfast muesli. We usually freeze some of it it in small portions for use later in the year. Stewed apple/apple sauce is also a delicious addition to these Choc-apple Brownies.
Choc-apple brownies

Here's the link to the recipe, which I found in the New Zealand Healthy Food Guide magazine, to which we subscribe. Thankfully the H.F.G. also have most of their recipes online. . . you might find some other interesting ones while you are over there. The only change I make to the recipe is that I don't include the walnuts as they aren't popular with all the members of our family. We also use dairy free choc chips, as a hangover from when two of us were strictly dairy-free. The use of stewed apple sauce replaces the fat content, and gives a delicious moistness to the Brownie.

Next up are Sugar-topped Apple Muffins, which are based on a recipe I got from About.com.
Sugar-topped Apple Muffins

2 cups plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter/marg
1 cup tart grated/finely chopped apple
Small amount of melted butter & sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or use paper cake cases. Combine first set of ingredients in a bowl. Whisk second set of ingredients in another bowl or measuring jug. Add apple and wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix until only just moistened. DO NOT OVER-BEAT (this will toughen the mixture.) Spoon into prepared muffin tin. Bake for about 20 mins, or until baked through. As soon as they are out of the oven, brush the tops with melted butter and dip them in a bowl of sugar, to give a lovely crunchy sugary top.

German Apple Cake
A real family favourite is German Apple Cake, which started life as a free recipe from allrecipes.com, but then I adapted it a bit to double the quantities but proportionately reduce the oil and sugar, increase the spices and grate rather than chop the apple. Here's my version:

4 eggs
400 ml oil
600 g sugar
4 tsps cinnamon
2 tsps salt
2 tsps vanilla essence
500 g self-raising flour (or a mix of wholemeal and SR, with 1 tsp baking powder per 100g wholemeal flour used)
1 kg apples - 900g grated and 100 g finely chopped

Preheat oven to 175C/350F. Grease and flour or line a large rectangular roasting tin or cake tin. Beat oil and eggs with electric mixer till creamy. Add sugar and vanilla and beat well. Slowly add flour, salt and cinnamon to the wet mixtureFold in the apples by hand. The mixture will be very thick. Spread mixture into prepared tin. Bake for around 45 mins or until cake tests done. Cool in tin, then cut into slices and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Last but not least, it's Sonny Jim's all-time favourite muffin recipe. . . ABC Muffins (A for Apple, B for Banana and C for Chocolate.) He has loved these muffins since he was a pre-schooler. This recipe is from the book "School Lunches and After School Snacks" by Alison and Simon Holst. As usual I couldn't resist altering it a bit - this time swapping half of the white flour for wholemeal. More tasty and substantial! I usually make a double mixture, but give you single quantities below:
ABC Muffins

3 mashed ripe bananas (from supply in freezer if you have them!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 apple, grated with skin on
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder

Heat oven to 200C/400F. In a large bowl, mix together mashed bananas, sugar, salt, oil, egg and milk. Stir in choc chips and grated apple. Shake flour through a sieve onto everything else and fold together until just dampened. Don't over-mix once flour has gone in or your muffins will be tough little bullets! Spoon into prepared muffin tin. Bake for 10 - 15 mins until golden brown.

So, that's how we deal with a welcome glut of apples. . . how about you? Any tried and tested recipes or other ideas? Please put them in the comments ;-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Love . . . Being Randomly Kind, or Kindly Random


Artwork by Sonny Jim - 2009

One of the first books I can remember having read to me as a very small child was "The Water Babies" by Charles Kingsley, a very old copy with beautiful colour plate illustrations, belonging to my dad. Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby was one of the characters - the only one who has stuck in my mind ever since.

To me, kindness is one of the most important values. I think the old philosophy of "do as you would be done by" still has some mileage in it yet…

I'm not talking about having to join a special "Random Acts of Kindness"/ R.A.K. group, or tell everyone how kind you've been. Although those things will certainly appeal to some. I am talking about those little kindnesses that are sprinkled into our days, by ourselves and others. Most of them are not grand gestures, but simple consideration of our fellow creatures, whether human or not! I love doing these small acts of kindness and I certainly love being on the receiving end too. Much like anything in life, there's plenty of room for improvement, at least on my part! But I think making a small start and having a go are the best way to begin, at least that's my philosophy anyway.

As a small child I remember being taught the importance of always saying please and thank you. This was not in any way seen as an act of kindness, but just plain old-fashioned manners. A bit later on, my brother and I were taught to hold the door open for others. When I was a teenager walking to school it used to be my daily personal challenge to see how many people walking in the opposite direction I could get to smile in response to my friendly grin! I still like to hand out free smiles at every opportunity :-) Just recently I have found the website Kind Over Matter, and that has lots of inspiration on how to include more kindness in your day, plus loads of freebies that you can print, like this free "Love Letter to the World".

After watching an episode of the BBC documentary "Child of Our Time" a couple of years ago, I did the "Values Test" on Sonny Jim. He was 8 years old, the same as the children in the documentary who did the same test. I gave him scraps of paper with the words RICH, FAMOUS, HANDSOME, CLEVER, KIND and HEALTHY written on them. His task was to discard these words one by one, least important discarded first. The prompt went something along the lines of "Which one of these is the LEAST important to you?" That value was discarded, then one more, and another one, repeatedly until there was only one word left. From this, the theory is that you get an idea of the child's values. These were Sonny Jim's results, from most important down to least important:


I was so proud of him that he valued kindness the most. Especially in the context that on the "Child of Our Time" tv programme all the boys except one put most importance on being rich and famous! But being rich and famous are literally the least of Sonny Jim's priorities! Interestingly, the girls in general tended to value kindness higher than the boys did. The one boy who valued kindness as the most important value on the tv show had a "stay at home dad" whilst his mum went out to work. Dr Robert Winston (the show's presenter) postulated that this difference was likely due to this boy not having been exposed to the usual gender stereotypes. Very interesting, consider that Sonny Jim has also avoided gender stereotyping at home, and also valued kindness most highly.

The same year he did the "Values Test", 2009, Sonny Jim did a school activity where the children were studying Martin Luther King and had to use their own ideas to complete the sentence "I had a dream. . ." This is his response:

"It was a wonderful dream. . . I dreamt that everybody was kind to everybody."

Hopefully as Sonny Jim grows up he will continue to place a high value on kindness, as we all do in our little family. . .

I'll finish with a quote from the Dalai Lama. I read it out to Sonny Jim a few days ago and his response?

 "He's an astounding man." 

Well said, that boy!

"My religion is simple. My religion is kindness."
The Dalai Lama

Monday, April 4, 2011

Knit. . . March yarnifications

Just one "yarnification" to report on from last month. . . an installation to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. More details and photos at Yarnificationz, this is just a quick summary. With the help of my lovely Wifie (who knitted the i-cord for 3 ♀) I knitted and assembled a total of 18 inter-linked♀ symbols and strung them up at the Nelson Women's House. My idea was that the ♀ symbols were all different sizes and colours, just like us women, but they had a strength and beauty in their diversity. . .

 I also knitted an International Women's Day logo and attached that to one of the verandah posts. . .

Judging by the comment on my Yarnificationz blog, the staff and volunteers at Nelson Women's House appreciated my efforts :-)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Guernsey goodness. . .

Guernsey location map  - courtesy of google

Did I ever tell you that I have a huge affection for Guernsey? I first visited that lovely Channel Isle in October 1986 as a 15 year old, on a family holiday. 

It's where, aged 15,  I flew on my very first flight ever. . . Bournemouth to Guernsey. I remember saying to my mum "How is the plane ever going to get airborne like this?" much to the mirth of the surrounding passengers - we were taxi-ing over to the runway at the time, but I didn't know that, and wondered how we were supposed to get airborne at THAT speed!

It's where, aged 15,  I met two very eccentric and lovable spinster sisters in their late 70s/early 80s, who lived in an old farmhouse in St Sampson. We stayed with them for our week long holiday at the "DIY B&B" they ran. . .

It's where, aged 15, I met one of my most amazing friends, who has remained a rock through thick and thin. . .

It's where I went camping as an 18 year old on my first truly independent holiday. . .

It's where I got my first "Guernsey jumper"  - a grey woollen one.

It's where I first met Golden Guernsey goats and fell in love with goats full stop, but Guernsey goats in particular. . . maybe one day we will have a piece of land big enough to have some Golden Guernsey Goats, or in fact any goats at all ;-)

It's where, as a teenager, I first flew in a little yellow island-hopping plane (also known as a flying banana!), immortalised through a series of children's books. The most famous plane of the fleet has the registration G-JOEY and is Aurigny Air Services' pin up boy!

More recently, Guernsey has been back on my radar with the 2009 gift of a wonderful book "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" from that lifelong friend I met in Guernsey. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it, if you are wanting a gentle slow paced book which really brings the characters and Guernsey itself to life.

Late last year, a local friend Jesse recommended a relatively new craft podcast called iMake, by a woman called Martine, based in Guernsey. The mention of Guernsey had me interested right away without even listening to the podcast!

I am pleased to report that the iMake podcast is a really good listen, whether you are a "Guernsophile" (yes, I just made that word up!) or not. . . It is a multi-craft podcast, with an emphasis on knitting, but plenty of airtime for a multitude of other crafts including soap-making, precious metal clay jewellery, scrap-booking, sewing, candle making, card-making and heaps of other crafts too multitudinous to mention! There is even a regular "Guernsey section" and occasional "outside broadcasts" or visits from Martine's friend Charles who is a witty conversationalist and craftsman to boot! Martine's voice is very easy on the ears and her podcasts are usually around 25 to 30 minutes duration, which suits me perfectly as it means I can listen to an entire episode on my drive to work.

In a lovely circular scenario, which will become apparent eventually, in 2008 a local knitting friend Susan inspired me to start making a sock yarn blanket after I saw her beautiful mitred square sock yarn blanket. Last year I showed Jesse and the rest of the local knit group my sock yarn fish blanket, which inspired Jesse to start on making a mitred square sock yarn blanket of her own. In turn, Jesse inspired Martine to start her own sock yarn blanket and Martine set up a sock yarn swap circle, which I became part of! I received one box of sock yarn scraps from Martine and I sent a bag of sock yarn scraps to Guernsey long before I thought of writing this blog, but a couple of weeks ago another box of yarn arrived for Jesse and me to share, and tucked inside was a delicious lip balm for each of us. . . Thanks Martine!

Another amazing piece of Guernsey goodness happened last week when Martine asked me if I would like to be interviewed (by questionnaire) for her iMake website. That's a link to the "interview" by the way. . . and if you do have a look at it, make sure you have a good look around the rest of the iMake website. It's a very slick design and loads of interesting information and tutorials there, as well as the podcast and show notes. . . a wealth of information and inspiration to be found.