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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Competition results. . . How many paper cranes so far?

Fanfares please. . . we have a winner!

The Wifie and I counted the paper cranes (pictured above) last night and we counted 581 cranes. Looking at the entries in the competition (see this post and this one) we have a clear winner, only one away from the actual number of cranes. Laura guessed 580 cranes, so she wins the top prize! Just because I'm feeling generous, I am also giving away a runner up prize to the next closest guess, and that was "DerailMe" with 586. If you can both get in touch with me and give me your postal addresses, I will get your prizes in the mail later this week. Once you have received your prizes I will put photos of them up here on the blog :-)

Well done both of you, and thank you ALL for entering. Extra special thanks to anyone reading this who has contributed cranes for the cause, and to those I know of who are part way through folding.

By the way, in the last couple of weeks I have folded/accumulated an extra 103 cranes, so we are now up to 683 cranes in total. Reaching the target of the first 1000 seems to be within reach at last. . .

This afternoon, I also handed out a prize to Sonny Jim's class for helping me fold some cranes last week (a book on folding paper planes and other flying things), and a special prize to the child who guessed closest to the actual number of cranes above (some origami paper). So it's prizes all round!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Knit. . . Watermelon dress, leafy shrug (and a woolly gift from afar).

I started making this watermelon sundress last June, as a gift for a dear friend's 5 year old daughter. I was on holiday in the UK at the time and I took the fabric and yarn with me all the way from NZ specially, aiming to use my mum's sewing machine while staying with her! All went well and I knitted up the bodice and sewed the skirt while I was there in Somerset, and then ground to a halt. Silly really - it has been languishing in a cupboard for almost a year, just waiting for the skirt to be gathered, bodice and ribbon sewn on and finally the three buttons added. Well, I am glad to report that just last week I finally finished this very slow-cooked project! The pattern is called The Two Summer Sundress, by Natalie Larson. The idea is that the first summer the straps are worn crossed over at the back, and the second summer, in order to add a bit of extra length the straps go to the same-sided button at the back. Ingenious!

Close up of dress back.
 Once the dress was finished, I decided that the 5 year old recipient needed a little something to cover her shoulders on a breezy day, and I set to work on a leafy shrug. Now that I have finished both the dress and shrug and washed and blocked them I will be popping them in the post to Oregon, USA this week. Very much looking forward to seeing some photos of a certain beautiful little five year old modelling them. . .


The photo above was going to be the end of this post, but then when I got home from work today there was a surprise package waiting for me, all the way from Cambridge! A lovely ravelry friend had offered to send me some sock yarn scraps, and I knew they were on the way, but I had absolutely no idea the package would contain a stunningly beautiful pair of socks, knitted for me by this modern day "pen-friend" whom I have never met, yet have shared a lovely written friendship with! 
 The sock design is Julia Socks by Emily Johnson, and they are based on a character from The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, which is a most excellent book. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize, so it's not just me who thinks so either! The following is the blurb about "The Night Watch" from Sarah Waters' website, linked above: Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked out streets, illicit liaisons, sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch is the work of a truly brilliant and compelling storyteller.
This is the story of four Londoners – three women and a young man with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger, searching. Helen, clever, sweet, much-loved, harbours a painful secret. Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly, even foolishly loyal, to her soldier lover. Duncan, an apparent innocent, has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives, and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways. War leads to strange alliances…
Tender, tragic and beautifully poignant, set against the backdrop of feats of heroism both epic and ordinary, here is a novel of relationships that offers up subtle surprises and twists. The Night Watch is thrilling. A towering achievement. 

According to the Julia sock pattern details "they are named for the glamorously androgynous Julia Standing, a character in Sarah Waters' 2006 novel The Night Watch". Strangely enough, as you can see in the photo above, I own a copy of the Night Watch book (and also the audiobook) and it is a firm favourite of mine, yet as far as I know, "S" all the way over in Cambridge didn't know that. I had certainly never mentioned it. What an amazingly intuitive choice! The pattern is stunningly beautiful and the yarn is in my all time favourite colour - teal. I love the name of the yarn too: Laughing Yaffle sock yarn in the "Teal-tastic"colourway. I feel like a very lucky person, I can tell you.
My beautiful socks with sock yarn scraps. . .

I love how the pattern continues onto the heel flap. . .
I just checked S's project page on ravelry and see that she has updated the details now that I have received the socks. She had named the project "Dragonfly socks" and S says that apparently in Japanese culture dragonflies are symbols of strength, courage and happiness. What a lovely association!!


I have counted the paper cranes in the competition and all will be revealed tomorrow ;-)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Eat. . . Funny face sushi

A couple of weeks ago, Sonny Jim and one of his friends decided they were going to make some "funny face sushi" using the rice moulds and nori punches I had bought in Auckland. See this post for details. They had a ball, as you can see!

SJ's friend applies nori face to the rice shape

SJ shows off some of the funny faces
They both had great fun doing this and it was super easy. I just prepared the rice for sushi as usual (see this post), and put some of it aside for them to get creative with, whilst I prepared some sushi rolls as per usual. We will definitely do this again sometime, the faces were fun to make and fun to eat!

Close up of one of the sushi, with soy sauce bottle in foreground.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fold. . . paper cranes at the local school. Plus COMPETITION reminder!

Cranes folded by my son's class, on a table in the classroom.
Yesterday, I went to the local school and showed my son's class how to fold paper cranes. I arranged it with the teacher at the beginning of the week, and am very grateful that he was so receptive to the idea and willing to let the paper cranes project take up a whole afternoon of school. Apparently the children wrote haiku poems in the morning, so they really did have a Japanese kind of day! Before I got there at 2pm, the class teacher had explained to them about the 1000 cranes legend and my project for Christchurch and Japan, even showing my 1000 Cranes blog post on the data projector. The children were all so enthusiastic and keen to help out. Very uplifting.

Yesterday afternoon, the teacher and every child in the class made a paper crane for the "1000 cranes for Christchurch and Japan" project. That's 29 cranes for the cause, and after they had done those I showed them all how to make a "flapping bird" as well. I am so grateful to all the children involved.

When I picked up Sonny Jim today, one of the children gave me another crane she had folded. Fantastic! The class teacher reckons that several more children will probably fold more cranes towards the 1000 over the next wee while. A few of the children showed me very small cranes they had made since yesterday afternoon - lots of them were fascinated by the three tiny cranes (wingspan of 2 cm or less) that I showed them yesterday, and had obviously been practising.

When I visited the classroom yesterday for the origami session, I took all the paper cranes photographed below so the children could have their own little competition to guess how many cranes there are. Each child has recorded their answer in one of their school books, and after I have counted the cranes I will award a prize of some Japanese origami paper to the child who has the closest guess.

How many paper cranes do you think are pictured above?
Don't forget, the blog-based "Guess the crane" competition closes in just over 24 hours, at midnight on Saturday 28th May, New Zealand time. Thank you to all those who have entered. So far there aren't many entries though, so if you haven't put your guess in the comments yet, I urge you to do so. Just write your comment in response to the "How many paper cranes so far?" blog post. Or even comment here. Someone has even put their guess on the "Blogger stole my post" post! But as long as you post a comment somewhere on here I will find it and include it, never fear! There are a lot more cranes folded now, two weeks later, but for the competition I just want to know how many paper cranes you reckon are in the photo above. Those particular cranes are all in a sealed box away from the others, and I will count them once entries have closed - at the moment I have little idea of how many there are myself, so am looking forward to doing the head count!

I will announce the winner by Tuesday night, and reveal the prize too. . . But you've got to be "in it to win it" as they say, so go on, just pick a number!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Love. . . getting back into study

There, I've admitted it. I've come out as a study geek!

I completed my BSc(hons) way back in 1993, and since then, although I have done loads of courses through work and in my own time, I have never done any further academic study. 2011 promised to be different, when I signed up for a post-graduate e-learning course in "dysphagia" (swallowing disorders) with the University of Auckland.

I was looking forward to gaining some much-needed skills and knowledge from the course, but never expected to enjoy it quite so much. . . that has been something of a surprise, and has earned me the nickname of "Hermione" at home!

Today I handed in my third assignment in as many weeks and what a great feeling that was! During the last few weeks I have written my first academic essay in 18 years, created some dysphagia resources for children and done my first ever piece of "Reflective writing." Phew! There is still a written exam and videofluoroscopy interpretation to do at the end of June, and then I will be finished.

It's amazing to see how much study techniques have changed over the last 18 years. When I was at Newcastle University back in the late 80s and early 90s, the internet was in its infancy. E-learning was not commonplace and searching for academic papers involved lengthy periods spent in the University library laboriously searching on a microfiche reader and thumbing through hefty bound volumes of academic journals and finally photocopying the most pertinent articles at a rate of 5 pence per sheet. Mind you, at least the library was dry and warm and spending time there saved on our student heating bills!

But this time around, it never occurred to me that I might be able to access the University of Auckland's library online. I am embarrassed to admit that I did the first half of my course without using the Uni library once, relying on the hospital's library instead. Finally, when I was bemoaning my lack of academic papers in preparation for essay-writing, my up-to-date (and also post-grad studying) Wifie suggested that I simply must be able to access the Uni library online and so I investigated, after protesting "But they didn't tell us anything about that!" Sure enough, times have changed and now I can sit in the comfort of my own home and "slurp" interesting looking academic papers right off the internet version of the Uni Library and have them download onto our home computer. What a revelation! It seems "they" didn't tell us this was possible because it is common knowledge amongst studying types, and fair enough too. I have not been the "studying type" for 18 years, but I certainly am now!

I feel like a dinosaur. But a dinosaur who is happily sampling the marvels of all the technological advances in the last 18 years and really appreciating exercising the grey matter! I even enjoyed writing my essay - which I was kind of dreading.

So there you have it. I admit it. I really am a study geek, even if a rather pre-historic one. . .

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Knit. . . Milo vest two different ways.

Milo made from handspun merino, silk and Romney

Have you ever come across the Milo vest by Australian knit-designer Georgie Hallam, a.k.a. "Tikki"? It's an extremely versatile pattern and covers a range of sizes, from newborn to 6 years (and beyond if you play around with different yarn choices and/or have a particularly slim child). If you are not familiar with the Milo, I really recommend you check it out - in fact, try anything designed by Georgie Hallam and you won't go wrong! All her designs are test knit many times over and the patterns are very clearly presented. Her blog is here and both free patterns and a "paid pattern" section are available over there as well as ravelry. There's a May Milo KAL (knitalong) on the "Tikki Love" group on ravelry at the moment, and I was helpless to resist! I have finished knitting two Milo vests in the last week.

 First up, a 3 month size handspun Milo vest using yarn I spun by hand back in the early days of  my spinning adventure - a couple of years ago. It is an absurd mixture of coloured silk and merino (soft as a cloud) with white Romney (coarse and durable), which looks nice but is quite "rustic" to the touch! I didn't know in those days that I would have been better off mixing soft wool with soft wool, nor did I even know that Romney was coarse! Not sure who this vest will be for, but as long as it is worn over a bodysuit or other long sleeved top it will be just fine. I love the colours, and they somehow remind me of a misty lakeside in Scotland or New Zealand.

For my next Milo, I decided to branch out and do a spot of embellishment using a chart from the Digger Jacket by Sam Godden. That pattern was originally published in a UK knitting magazine, but is now available by email. The charts for the construction vehicles were almost illegible in the black and white .pdf I received, so I set about recreating a digger chart using photos of the finished Digger jacket on ravelry. This is the result. . .

Above and below you can see how the chart looked once I had Swiss darned/duplicate stitched it onto the Digger Milo vest, and outlined it with grey chain stitch.

I missed out the cable panel and did stocking stitch for the whole body until the garter stitch border, in order to allow a blank canvas for the digger and mud. The last 10 rows of the stocking stitch section are knitted in "mud" colour, and then I embroidered the hole and the mud piles as well as the digger. This Milo vest is for a certain little boy who turns three years old next week. His mum says he loves diggers, so I hope he likes it :-) 

I got a lovely comment on ravelry about this Digger Milo from Tikki/Georgie Hallam, designer of the Milo vest. It went something like this: "LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! (1000) My son would love love love this too!" So that made my day :-) and made me love Georgie's designs even more! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Eat. . . green pea and feta soup

Pea and feta soup I made last week.
This is one of my favourite soups and the whole family love it too - even Sonny Jim, who refers to it as "Swamp Soup"! It is loosely based on a recipe I found in my Jamie Oliver iPhone app. How 21st century! As always, I adapted it to suit our tastes and pantry. Best served with fresh crusty bread - last week I served it with olive and garlic French bread from the bread-maker.

Here are the instructions:

3 sticks celery, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
Splash of olive oil
3 or 4 large potatoes, grated
1 litre vegetable stock
500 g frozen peas
1 cup natural yogurt
Salt and pepper
Feta cheese and olive oil to garnish

Sauté the onion and celery in a large pan. Add the grated potato, frozen peas and veggie stock. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 mins or so, adding more liquid as necessary. Stir in the yogurt. Season with salt and pepper. Whilst still in the pan, attack with a stick blender until the soup is more-or-less smooth. Pour into bowls, and crumble feta cheese over the top, then drizzle with your best quality olive oil, in random squiggles (or even a heart shape as above!)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fold. . . how many paper cranes so far?! COMPETITION

This is the replacement version of the post I published on Thursday - cos blogger ate that one! Luckily only one person had posted a comment before the post disappeared, despite a large number of people having a look. So come on people, get those guesses in the comments below. . .
All the cranes so far. . . except five.
You remember my plan to fold/collect 1000 paper cranes for Christchurch and 1000 for Japan? (See this blog post if you want more info). A steady stream of paper cranes have flown in over the last few weeks. Some from the UK, many from around New Zealand, and I have kept folding too. All folded with love for the people of Christchurch and Japan.

But, the big question is:

how many paper cranes do we have so far?

I haven't done a crane head-count yet, but if you would like to post your guess in the comments section below, I will award a mystery prize to the person/people with the closest guess. The prize is a mystery, cos I haven't decided what it is yet! Just a hint, in the photo above you can see all the cranes so far (except 5 which I managed to miss out of the photo - sorry E!) but although I didn't deliberately hide any cranes, I can't guarantee that they are all visible either. . .
To enter the competition, post your guess in a comment below by midnight on Saturday 28th May, New Zealand time. I will announce the winner(s) by midnight Tuesday 31st May.

Huge thanks to the following (in no particular order)who have supplied contributions towards the first 1000 paper cranes:

S-L in Christchurch
S in Waitakere
K in Palmerston North
M in Red Beach
C and helpers in Auckland
L and J in Tasman
C, M, C, K, and A in Nelson
E in the UK

Hopefully I didn't miss anyone off that list - but if I did (oh, the shame), then please let me know and I will fix up the list right away.

Blogger stole my post!

The one called "Fold. . . how many paper cranes so far?" That post has completely vanished, along with its solitary comment!

It seems blogger has been having some issues globally and they managed to lose all posts and comments published after a certain date, and my latest was one of the ones that went down the ethereal toilet!

Later today (after doing an acceptable amount of studying!) I will try to put that post back up more-or-less the same, (thankfully I subscribed by email to my own blog - how self-indulgent!) but for now my 2nd of 3 Uni of Auckland assignments awaits my attention!

Ka kite ano (bye for now!)


Friday, May 6, 2011

Love. . . the bringer of "free positive thoughts"

. . . who just so happens to be my boy - 10 year old "Sonny Jim". Yes, this post is really just a great big "Proud mum" moment!

Ever since I first found the free downloadable positive thoughts and compliments at Kind Over Matter in March (see my previous post), and put one up on the village notice board, Sonny Jim has taken it upon himself to make sure there is always a poster of free compliments or positive thoughts there. He makes it his daily business to see how many strips of paper have been taken and to replace the poster (anonymously) when necessary. We both love thinking about the people in the village whose day might have been brightened by one of these happy thoughts, and I am so proud of my boy for wanting to spread a little happiness and kindness around.

Just as an aside, I have to say that young Sonny Jim has been providing "Free positive thoughts" to me ever since he was born . . . no, in fact since the day he was conceived all the way back in March 2000.
Love you son.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Knit. . . Hungarian Snowflake Slippers

These slippers were knitted by special request from my mother-in-law (also known as the "Countess of Hungary"!) In the middle of May, she is heading off on a trip back to Hungary, the country of her birth. Apparently a pair of these Snowflake Slippers by Diana Crossing is the essential accessory! I finished them on 29th April, but didn't get round to putting them on the blog till now. They are knitted from 8 ply/ DK wool in one piece, on 3.75 mm needles. They start with a garter stitch sole, continue on to a fisherman's rib side section, topped by a stocking stitch snowflake section and garter stitch instep. This is the 4th pair of these slippers I have made over the years and I have adapted them by adding extra length to the instep and extra rows around the ankle to improve the fit. Nothing more to say really. . . simple slippers, quickly knitted up.