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Playing Catchup

I’ve been meaning to blog for ages. I like to plan my entries and have had a few planned but not got around to posting.

But less of what I’ve not been doing.Let’s move onto what I have been doing. 🙂

Firstly, there’s a new edition of Knitcast out! This time I interview Lee Meredith of Leethal Knits. Such a lovely lady!

Secondly, there’s tidying!

I moved into this house in May 2008. At the time Doug and I were just friends, not dating and I told him that I’d be unpacked in three months.  My god, have I been ribbed over that statement! The problem with having a lot of stuff is that when you do go to deal with it, it can seem so overwhelming that you do nothing. Ok, maybe you move a couple of things or shift things around but mostly you just think “I can’t deal with this right now, it’s just too much”. And that’s been my attitude for much of the time.

The downside is that I’ve not been able to access my craft room and actually make things in there – ever. So I’ve busy unpacking all the boxes in there and making space since on Friday I get new yarn shelving and a cutting table! 🙂

Tomorrow I have a very busy day ahead of me. I’m spending it with Heather Ordover, Amy Singer, Dianne Read-Jackson and the rest of the peeps on the CraftLit: London, Bath and Wales tour. And in the evening we’re going to a huge meetup of all the Cardiff knitting groups at Dempsey’s Pub! It should be fun! And exhausting!

My Blue Arbour

I love the colour blue in a garden and when Doug said he wanted to get me an arbour for my birthday, I knew exactly what colour I would paint it.


It’s been a work in progress for a while. The staining, with one of Cuprinol’s garden shades, took ages and we still missed little bits. It also didn’t help that just as we were getting to the last of the painting, the heavens opened and it poured down with rain. Rain that washed sections of blue off 🙁

We hoped to assemble it the same weekend but yet again, the weather went against us. The wind was pretty bad and it would have been a nightmare to errect. But yesterday it all went together. It took a few hours and was hard work, even though Doug did the really hard bits and I held things in place.

It still needs more stain and to have some grass brushed off it and then a base to stand on but aside from all that I think it’s beautiful. I did a double take when I looked out of my window and saw it this morning while making tea. 🙂 It’s going to be the perfect place to relax, knit, read or surf on my netbook. I expect my cat Emma will be fond of it too 🙂

KnitCast – episode 32 where I meet Mags Kandis and chat about her new book Gifted, the love of making stuff, colour and Frieda Kahlo is now online. I’m also giving away a copy of Gifted. For the info head on over to 🙂

Pinballs or what I did on Sunday…

In a departure from my usual writing about things like knitting, sewing, cooking etc. I’m going to talk to you about pinball since I took part in a pinball tournament last Sunday. I got into pinball through Doug, it’s one of his passions and he has five pinball machines in his house. When we were first dating he had three – The Getaway, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (one of only two in the UK) and an Apollo 13. He’s since acquired a Star Trek Next Generation, swapped Apollo 13 for a Doctor Who and earlier this year he won a Popeye, in a raffle at a pinball show!

It would be useful if I had some photos of his to show at this point but I don’t so I’ll just show you someone elses instead.

Knitting pinball fact – Annie Modesitt likes pinball and is apparently very good at it. If  I have time at some point I’ll upload the pinball conversation that got cut from the interview I did with her for KnitCast.

Like knitters,  pinball players like to get together, talk about their interests, projects (since most games tend to be quite old they’re usually repairing something), compare and  play each other machines. Pinball is also a sport and if you take part in the league competitions and other competitions – you can be a world ranked pinball player. My ranking isn’t great, last time I checked I was 5000 and something, so a long way to go. I do want to get better but since I’m usually at Doug’s every other weekend and we tend to do more than just stay in the house and play pinball, I don’t get to practice that often. It’s funny, like most things whether it be sewing, knitting or cooking, you tend to get your best results when you relax a little and stop worrying about things being perfect. I still want to get better scores though 😉

Last Sunday we went to the final South West Pinball meet of the season. It was hosted by Dave Rolfe in Abergavenny. Whereas Doug’s pinballs are from the 1990’s and have various computerised modes, Dave’s are from the 70’s and 80’s and are what’s called solid state machines. Even though they’re different, they’re still fun, difficult and frustrating to play at times. Just like all pins! Dave had at least twenty pins and also some arcade machines.

I was really interested in the artwork on them, some of the designs of the games are just beautiful. Central Park is a very old game that wasn’t set up but the backboard is lovely. Just to the side of it is a PacMan sign. It’s stood on top of a Rolling Stones pinball.

I loved the designs on these backboards for quite old games. This pic of Gigi didn’t come out very well, sadly. There’s something quite charming about these designs. Although I’m not too sure how I feel about the clowns!

Although, something to bear in mind is that a common feature among some pinballs that I’ve noticed is that if there’s a female character in the art, she tends to have rather large breasts! As a comic book fan I recognise this trend theme from interests that tend to be dominated by, or at least aimed at, straight males. I don’t remember April from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles being that well endowed there but look at the pinball table and there she is, busting out of her jumpsuit! Reminds me of the time I decided against buying a Marvel Black Cat action figure because her costume was unzipped to her navel. Here’s Strikes and Spares as an example.

And check out the lady on Mystic too

Doug achived the highest score of the league on Flash Gordon. Bizarrely, although he doesn’t feature in the film at all, William Shattner voices the narration on the game.

This one could be really frustrating, because if you pulled the plunger to release the ball two strongly the ball just rolled right down the middle. That happened to my first two balls on the game.

I quite liked Vector, mainly because Doug thought it might be based on a film and I really fancy seeing the film.

It looks like a really crap sci-fi film and I love the idea of seeing them spinning around on their wheels with their weird bat hands. As a geek, you have to have room for some bad sci-fi movies 🙂

I didn’t quite “get” pinball at first but now I’m quite competitive about it. And like everyone else I’m fairly frustrated when I lose the ball.  In fact, no one ever looks happy with their scores because their game/go finishes they’ve just lost the ball. In a tournament you usually have to play a set number of machines which are on tournament settings. So, no extra balls if you do well and they tend to be fairly hard too. So how did I do? Well, I came 17th out of 18th. I still have a long way to go although Doug says my performance is getting better. He came very close to making the UK Finals but got pipped at the post and came in at 6th.  The next competition will be at the Pinball Party in August. Last year I was just following Doug around and recording his score. This year will be different. I have no idea how I’ll do on the day, lets hope I can relax 🙂

(BTW I’ve changed my blog template but haven’t finished tweaking with it just yet)

Busy Baking

So, the first non-bank-holiday day of my week off and I’ve been editing this month’s KnitCast and doing some baking.

Cookies on baking paper

For years I yearned of making large, moist, chewy  chocolate chip cookies.They’re easy to find in stores etc. but I wanted to make them at home. A friend of mine went to work in the United States in the early nineties and sent me home a cookie recipe book but of course it was all in American measurements and ingredients. So I was left with questions  like – how much does a stick of butter weigh? I’m still not entirely sure what shortening is, but whatever it is,  you can’t get it here.  I remember having mixed results whenever I tried to bake cookies and then moved onto cakes and muffins which were far more successful.

Last year I decided to bake cookies again and when I googled Chocolate Chip Cookies this recipe came up first in the list. It’s by Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall and, my dodgey oven aside, it’s foolproof. I’ve had great success with this recipe and it has relatively few ingredients. Nowadays I just use salted butter and thus you don’t need the pinch of salt. Hugh has you use the best chocolate you find and to roughly chop it but I do use chocolate chips and other ingredients. I usually slightly increase the vanilla essence either by accident, slopping too much in the bowl,  or design. I also use my electric mixer to make the cookie dough so it’s even simpler.

Cookie closeup

For today’s batch I used chocolate chips and chopped up some crystallised ginger that I had too. I didn’t weigh the ginger but you can put anything in these cookies. I imagine they’d be good with sultanas or cherries and coconut too.

Two of the cookies mysteriously vanished...

I tried to take some better photos of the Soxie sock today because yesterday’s blurry indoor pic didn’t do justice to the colours in them at all. Although I had to wait for a while because it was raining heavily.

Soxie outside

And some closeups of sections of the sock

Soxie closeup 1

I think this shot of the heel shows the colours at their best

Soxie heel

The colours are just so wild and glorious. I love them!

Yarn from Far Places…

My paper copy of Northern Knits by Lucinda Guy arrived on Monday and while thumbing through it I remembered that I wanted to knit the cover design, the lovely and delicate looking Pia laceweight Pullover. It uses Ullcentrum Öland One Thread Yarn, which is a lace weight of course and is literally one thread, no plies. I’ve never knit anything in a lace weight. I tend to use aran weight for cardigans etc. and still have at least seven cardis in various stages of progress on the needles. So I shouldn’t really be contemplating knitting anything new…but…. Well, I’d been considering my knitwear recently. I’d been thinking about the fact that I hardly wear any of my handknit cardis in work, mainly because it tends to be too warm. I tend to wear thin, storebought cardis, often in black.

Logic would dictate that I should knit more lighter cardis and in black because I’d be more likely to wear them. Fine things can also be scrunched into a bag more easily. But knitting in black doesn’t thrill me and nether really does the prospect of working with thin yarns. Why then did I decide, completely out of the blue then, to order four skeins of lace weight yarn? You see I got home after work on Monday and found myself googling Ullcentrum Öland and ordering four skeins of the one thread from them in the red shade. It arrived yesterday

Ullcentrum Öland Order

Here are some closeups

Ullcentrum Öland One Thread closeup 1

Ullcentrum Öland One Thread closeup 2

When I interviewed Lucinda for KnitCast she told me that you have to wash the finished garment in quite hot water in order to full the sweater and I was a little alarmed at first by this idea, but now that I’ve seen the yarn I understand why. It’s made traditionally and is of a course texture when you first handle it. It still has bits of twigs in which remind me of Noro yarns. I expect that it will look beautiful once it’s been washed and blocked but I’m not too sure what it’ll be like to knit with.

The pattern calls for you to cast on 400 odd stitches which did make me swallow when I read it! But I’ve wound one skein into a ball and was ready cast on last night until I realised that I couldn’t find my 80cm long 3mm circulars. So I’ve ordered two pairs – one bamboo and one addi turbo and will see which handle the yarn best. I do hope that I don’t find myself becoming perturbed by all the stitches, I do have such a lack of patience sometimes, and that I finish it but we shall see!

Garden Makeover in Progress…

Before I rediscovered knitting I had another obsession – gardening. I would tend to my garden daily and grew all sorts of things from seed. And then the yarn came a calling and gardening slowly fell off my radar. I was still interested in plants, it just wasn’t an all consuming obsession.

Last year I decided to rent the plot of land that backs onto my garden thus doubling the size of my garden. The plot had never been leased before and was thick with over grown brambles.

You can see the brambles growing beyond my garden wall

I hired a gardener friend in February and she spent two days clearing the worst of it and unearthed a lot of junk that had basically been dumped over the garden wall.

The junk behind the garden wall

The funniest thing she found in there was an unopened jar of  picked onions! I had the rubbish taken away and have continued clearing the plot. Doug knocked down the garden wall to unite the two sections.

And the wall was no more

See that blue wheel? That belonged to a manual lawn mower that had been chucked over. I also found a toilet cistern and a rotary washing line.

Slowly getting there. You can see the cistern on the left.

I’m sure you will have noticed that Emma has been supervising the whole operation. It’s still far from finished and I don’t have a great deal of time to get some raised beds sorted so that I can get on with growing some veg – more on that later – but I’m posting these before and after photos not only as a record but as impetus to continue with the work. Doug and I spent several hours working on it on Saturday and most days I can get at least an hour done out there after work before the light fades. I do sometimes wish I had the overnight help of GroundForce but it’s slowly getting there!

Oh and before I forget, there’s another new edition of KnitCast online 🙂

It’s done…

I just closed my Typepad account. It was really weird. I’d been with them since 2004 so it’s a bit of an end of era. I knew I had to do it simply because I couldn’t afford them anymore and it was silly having an account with them while I also had webspace and a domain name. Hence my move to self hosted WordPress blogs. I’ve been busy all week making sure that the links on my archives and images were up to date. It wasn’t too bad, well, aside from the sore neck I developed from concentrating!,  but it wasn’t seamless either.

One of my concerns about leaving Typepad was about my urls, particularly the address for KnitCast snce it appears that the typepad url had even been published in books. But TypePad really are good guys. Even when you close down a paid Pro account with them you get to keep one blog for free. And your old urls redirect to that free blog. So I’ve now got a “these blogs have moved” post that’ll stay up there longer than the 28th of this month when my paid account was going to lapse. That’s great as even if people go to the wrong address they’ll still be able to find their way to this blog and to Knitcast. And with the new KnitCast all edited and uploaded and just waiting to go live on Monday, it’s very important to me that people are able to find it.

Oh, I’m still trying to find a WordPress theme that I like for the KnitCast site. Any suggestions would be welcomed. I tend to like fairly simple and clear themes.

I Knit & Audio Boo

We’re currently on the train to London for I Knit. Should be interesting!

I’ve created an AudioBoo account you can follow me & subscribe to my recordings here

Hopefully I’ll be recording some Boos at I Knit today 🙂

2008 update & the return of KnitCast

A little update on what I’ve been up to so far in 2008.

I spent some time going back and forth to Scotland this year because I was seeing a guy up there but that fizzled out. All the while I was also still looking at houses in Cardiff. I had started to look at the area in which I grew up because I had a better chance of affording a house with room for all my yarn there 😉

But then a few weeks ago after several reports about the fall in house prices I decided to look again at houses in the part of Cardiff where I’ve lived for the past fifteen years. I thought I’d have a better chance of being able to afford one there now with the market being so bad and my not being in a chain. So one week I started looking at houses and on the Friday of that week I saw a house I liked. A week later I looked at it again. Last week I put in an offer which was accepted. Now of course it’s early days still because mortgages take a while to come through and it may not work out. But I’m trying to remain positive while still being realistic. And also while planning how I’m going to decorate!

KnitCast news now – the podcast will return in July and it’ll be the edition that I recorded in New York last July. I figure that gives me enough time to settle in the new place and get into some kind of routine.

I’ve also been struggling with a nasty cold bug this week. I started feeling unwell about a week ago and then was very ill over the weekend. I was supposed to be grocery shopping etc. and see some friends on Sunday but I was just too ill. Even the thought of shopping couldn’t tempt me! I’m still not a hundred per cent and also have a nasty cough but I hope I’ll start feeling better soon. I think I’ve just been especially run down and that the stress of buying a house hasn’t helped at all.

And so far I’ve hardly even mentioned knitting. That’s because I just haven’t been knitting recently. I do want to cast on again soon though. There’s a ball of Kyoto by Art Fibers in Orchid on my coffee table that keeps calling out to me so I hope to knit that soon. I’ll be casting my eye for patterns for summery cardis with cropped and short sleeves I think.

KnitCast Update!

Head on over to KnitCast and download the new update mp3. It’s only a short file but a listener eons ago suggested that I record one so that people who only subscribed but didn’t read the blog knew where I was.

I realised a couple of days ago that I couldn’t remember when I’d last picked up my knitting. I’ve not been able to make the time or energy for it recently plus other factors have got in the way. For example, I need to wind a skein of yarn so that I can continue on a top down raglan but I can’t get into my knitting/spare room full of all my boxed crap into order to unpack my swift.

With another top down raglan, the lovely Art Fibers Kyoto one, I’ve become stuck on the  sleeve decreases of the final sleeve. That’s right, all I have to do is finish the last sleeve, sew in ends and a button  and it’s done. But I forgot to make a note of how many stitches I decreased to when I knit the first sleeve and everytime I’ve looked at it I’ve been too tired to figure it out. I think the answer is to just look at it in daylight one day. I would like to finish it before New York.

I’ve been trying to decide what to take to knit on the journey and I’m not sure. It can’t be a sock, and I don’t want to take anything too big but I’m also a bit tired of scarves. Of course I do have to organise a way into the yarn/crap room so that I can look through my stuff.

However before I can do that I need to organise some of the other rooms in my house. I’m still renting, I decided to take a break from house hunting since I wasn’t finding anything I liked. So now I’m trying to get some semblance of order at home so that it does feel more like a home and less of a place to store boxes!