Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cables and goodbyes

After weeks of wrestling with that darn cable needle, I finally got around to teaching myself how to cable without one. And, surprise, surprise, it was easy! Well - the right cable was. I couldn't figure out how to do a left cable sans cable needle, because I'm rather idiotic when it comes to spacial things. Oh well, I suppose I'll have another crack at it tonight.

Anyhoo, if you are interested in learning how yourself, trot on over to this marvellous tutorial by Grumperina. My inability to each myself should have no reflection on her thorough, well photographed explanation.

So there you have it. Another spiffy trick added to my knitting arsenal!


On a more sombre note, rest in peace Dina Rabinovich. The columns she wrote for the Guardian, exploring her way along the mine-ridden path that is a breast cancer journey will stay with me for a long, long time, serving as a continual reminder as to how lucky I am, and how I should never, ever take a moment for granted. My thoughts, heavy and sad, are with her and her beloved family today, and I'm sure they will be for quite some time.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing?
Up in the air so blue
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown,
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

Robert Louis Stevenson

(It's the best thing a child can do, to be sure, but it's even better if your favourite dog can join in the fun!)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The pen is mightier than the "Send" button

It can all seem so difficult, this environmental stuff, can't it? No matter how hard you try in your own life, all effort seems to be completely and utterly negated by those who keep driving their Hummers, leaving all their lights on, eating out-of-season food flown in from other countries, flying themselves around the country or the world whenever the whim for a mini-break strikes etc. It's enough to make you become a hermit. How can one little person make a difference with all this going on around them?

How? Vote! And let your representatives know what issues will get your vote. We have an election coming up here in Australia, and now is the perfect time to start harassing politicians and canidates on issues such as Kyoto, greenhouse targets, coal, energy efficiency, land clearing, carbon pricing, nuclear power, uranium mining and more. One simple and easy way to do this is to head on over to The Big Switch site, and use their forms to send emails to the pollies on these issues. Changes need to be made NOW if we are going to prevent our world heating up past 2 degrees (which in itself is quite disasterous).

Emails are pretty good, but if you could send an actual paper letter, that would be even better. My husband used to know a guy who worked for one of the major parties, and he said that emails were routinely ignored, but paper letters, by rule, had to be opened and then answered.

So what are you waiting for? Pen to paper, and make a difference. Remember - they NEED your votes, so show them how to win 'em. For a small window of time, the power is most definitely in your hands.


By the way, thanks for all the yoghurt advice. Jamie Oliver, Schmoliver. Looks like I'll be checking out that Easiyo next time I hit the supermaket!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yoplait - it's French for beeping frustrated!

On the weekend, I tried to make yoghurt. Note the use of the word tried. The olde yoghurt definitely wasn't a success. I followed the Jamie Oliver recipe, which says to bring a litre of milk to the boil, let cool to room temp, then stir in 1/2 litre of yoghurt. Let it sit around for 6 - 8 hours then hey presto! Yoghurt!

Except, not. I got watery, milky, yoghurty smelling sludge.

Not to be deterred, I did some research. According to Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, you only need to mix a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt into the litre of milk. Confused? Moi aussi. Shouldn't my 1/2 litre of yoghurt guaranteed that I would end up with yoghurt, when normally only a mere few tablespoons usually do the trick? How hard can this possibly be, if shepherds tooling around with storing milk in goat bladders could come up with yoghurt? Is that the secret - a goat bladder?

Gah! Tearing of hair! Does anybody have any sure fire yoghurt tips? Purlease, help!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Oi there, you zips - stand to attention!

Creeeeeeeek.... kerthump. What's that noise? Why, the sound of the overlocker and sewing machine being hefted from their winter hibernation spot in the cupboard, up onto the table.

This, my friends, is a call to arms. Put those knitting needles aside, and bring out the pins and tape measures and tailor's chalk. Blow the dust off the sewing machine, and give the iron a clean. Assemble your bias binding, your elastic thread, your buttons and zips and hooks and eyes. Ready yourself for gathered sleeves, and negative ease, and crooked buttonholes, and zips that refuse to sit just so and make you quiver with rage, for the sewing season has begun!

Fingers crossed, Grumbles will have a brand new spanking wardrobe, quicker than you can say "Eeerr-I've-stabbed-myself-with-the-quick-un-pick-again!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Of the environment, and other things

I've been tagged by Nichola with the book tag, which works out very nicely indeed - I'd been planning on writing a post about Blog Action Day, but forgot (d'oh!), and am currently reading a book that is 100% guaranteed to scare the willies off you - Six Degrees by Mark Lynas. The book looks at the effect each degree of warming will have on the earth, starting at one degree and moving up to six. Absolutely horrifying stuff. (For a terrific summary of the book, go here to read what ye old Guardian says.)

So, as per the meme, I'll open the book at page 161, find the 5th sentence down and have a look at what it says:

Lowe's work shows that flooding of this kind could hit the coast every few years by the latter part of this century, leaving whole villages, towns and huge swathes of farmland uninhabitable.
Well, that's a cheery thought, innit? Yet still we drive our cars everywhere, guzzling up all those fossil fuels and spewing more carbon into the air, which only serves to heat up our planet more and more and more. We add to this by consuming food that is grown with fertilisers based on fossil fuels, that not only contribute more carbon to the atmosphere, but ruin entire eco-systems - either by being part of agribusiness with nothing but single plant varieties grown for miles around, or by the fertilisers washing off into our rivers and bays, destroying everything except algae which sucks out the oxygen from the water, destroying the marine life, and then rots, releasing: you guessed it, more carbon! Oh, and don't forget that all the food we eat travels thousands upon thousands of miles before it hits your plate, with all those miles toting up to release even more carbon into the air!
But never mind the heat - just buy yourself a lovely cooling air conditioner. Sure, they suck up a bit of electricity but since the marjority of Australia's energy is created by burning coal, I'm sure that it will be quite all right. What's that you say - burning coal is a very dirty business indeed - in fact, it's the most carbon releasing way of creating electricity? Well, hot diggity damn! With an emphasisi on the hot! I suppose I'd best unplug my fragrance releaser (insert other completely useless electrical equipment here).
Okay, enough sarcasm. And I know I'm not perfect. I occaisonally ride in a car. I sometimes eat food that comes in plastic packaging, from locations far away. I'm not at all averse to buying nice shiny new food magazines when I see them in the newsagency. I, like most of us, do not fancy wearing a hairshirt.
But I do try, very very hard. As a family, every purchase we make (um, except for the food mags!) undergoes strict scrutiny. Do we need it? Is it ethically produced? Can I get a similar product with less 'miles' attached. Is it organic? Can the packaging be reused or recycled? Do I really need to buy it, or can I borrow one from a neighbour or the library? So, in the spirit of all things environmental, I thought I'd give you a snapshot of my average day, where the focus is on trying to do the least harm, whilst still living an enjoyable life.
Oh, and congratulations if you've stuck this far!
Sometime between 6:00 - 7:00: The Galumph and I awake to the noise of Grumbles calling out "Muuuuuum! Daaaaaaaad!" in her room. I usually roll over, murming "Oh, isn't it your turn?" and let Galumph grab her, whilst I grab another 5 minutes shut eye.
7:05 - Yawning and scratching my belly, I meander down to the kitchen. The Galumph has already boiled the kettle, bless him, using only enough water for our breakfast beverages, so I fire up the computer while I wait for him to make me a coffee, using Fair Trade coffee and organic milk. He, meanwhile, loads up his laptop to check his work emails (yeah, we need to work on having both running at the one time).
7:30 - Grumbles demands breakfast, so we begin to organise it. Her and Galumph both have organic porridge which I buy from an organic grocer, bringing my own bag. The porridge is usually topped with organic stewed fruit (I use whatever is in season). I have toast made from bread from the local baker (take my own bag there, too!) with whatever is lying around the fridge.
8:00 - Shower time. Galumph and Grumbles go first, making sure that they stay in the 3 minutes allocated by the egg timer attached to our shower wall, otherwise they get yelled at by Miss Charming over here. I pop in after them, and try and beat my personal best time. Best so far is 1 minute 27 seconds (needless to say, I didn't really feel very refreshed, although I got a good workout, scrubbing so quickly). If it's a hairwash day, I take a little bit longer, usually nudging the 3 minutes, soaping up with my plastic free soap bar from Lush. I then pop out, moisturise with my Aesop cream (glass bottle, and is manufactured in Carlton!), and then deodorise using some crappy supermarket job. I tried the Lush ones, but they just didn't work for me (although they do for Galumph - I've guess I'm just stinky), and I concluded the washing my clothes after every single wear was far worse for the environment than using the plastic deordorant.
8:15 - We all get dressed. Grumbles and I are usually sporting something that I've made myself. By making my own clothes, not only am I cutting down on some clothing miles (yes, the fabric travels, but not quite as much as it would if it went to another factory in Chinas to be made into mass produced fashion), but we think we look pretty cool! Also, you really have to want something when you sew it yourself, so it stops random spur of the moment purchases. If I do buy a new piece, I try to get pieces made by local designers. They do cost a bit, but I wear them year after year after year. Fashion is art, darling!
8:30 - On goes the washing. I load up my front loader with environmentally friendly detergant (haven't got to making my own yet, Nic!), make sure it's on the eco-cycle, and cold water setting, and away it goes.
8:35 - Grab the shower water, saved in a bucket, and use it to water the plants.
8:40 - Kiss Galumph goodbye, after making sure he's got his leftovers for lunch, plus some organic fruit to eat, as he rides off to work, rain, hail, or shine, on his bike. I then hang out the washing on the clothes line. No tumble drying for us!
9:00 - Do the dishes, using eco-friendly detergant, trying to keep water to a minimum.
9:30 - Whilst Grumbles is happily doing some colouring in, I write out my shopping list for the day, on old bits of scrap pattern making paper which I save when cutting out a pattern, then bundle together as notepaper. Once I know what we need (based on our monthly menu plan) we either walk or pram to the shops (we have to, since we don't own a car), bringing our own carry bags and paper bags. We stop at the organic green grocer, buying our fruit and vegetables there, then pop into the small local supermarket for any dairy that we might need. Depending on the day, we might stop and have a coffee with one of the girls at the grocers, or with the friendly chap at the second hand book shop. We always wave to the man at the fish shop, and say hello to the video shop fellow, who gives us free dvds in return for home made muffins, and then might go to the cheese shop, where Grumbles is always treated to a piece of cheese (that kid is yet to meet a cheese she didn't like).
12:00 - Whoooo, look at the time - we'd better have some lunch! Usually we have left overs from the night before, or maybe we'll have a toasted sandwhich, or soup I've squirrelled away in the freezer. Unless it's a very dark day, no lights go on at our place during the day time. It's not uncommon to glance up and realise we've been sitting in the dark! After lunch Grumbles heads down for her sleep.
1:00 - With Grumbles down, it's now 'me' time. I'll fire up the computer again, check and answer emails, and perhaps update the blog. I like to read the G2 section of The Guardian, as well as checking out Treehugger. Then, after closing down the computer I decide what activity to occupy myself with until Grumbles wakes up. Either I knit, read a book or I sew. The sewing does require the use of a sewing machine, plus lights, so I do use a bit of electricity there, but the knitting or reading always takes place with me tucked up in bed. I do this for two reasons: 1 - To stay warm, so I don't have to put on the heater, and 2 - So I can be close to the window, thus negating the need to turn on any lights. Yes, I am a big dork. But I'm a dork with toasty warm legs and a clear conscience! I'll remain at my activity until I hear Grumbles stir.
3:00 - With the tiger up and ready to play, we have a snack of fruit, then decide what to spend the afternoon doing. Either we walk down to the park, or meet up with a friend, or do something crafty at home, like painting, or colouring, or making our own paper, or inventing stories with her collection of home made toys. The focus is always on using what we have. Apart from colouring books, it's rare that Grumbles gets anything new like a toy or books, unless it's her birthday or Christmas. I'd much rather frequent the local library, or help her make something from scratch.
5:30 - Time to get dinner organised. I turn the computer on, and let Grumbles watch a dvd whilst I make tea. We don't own a television, so this is her 'quiet time', and keeps her from being tired and over excited, and under my feet, while I make dinner. Dinner is always vegetarian (read more about it here!), with most things being made from scratch, which can take a little while. Occaisonally I bomb out and realise that I forgot to soak the beans or whatever so I'll crack open a can, but mostly I try to keep the food packaging to a minimum.
6:30 - Galumph is usually home by now, so we play some nice music while we sit down together as a family. We talk about our days (well, we try - most of the time dinner is spent asking Grumbles not to leave her chair until everybody is finished and please pick up your fork and now pick up your spoon and don't warble whilst Daddy is talking and Grumbles I just told you not to do that and do you want to tell Dad what we did today? Oh, now you've gone quiet!) and any notable events that went on in the world (although if it's about politics or tax I may tune out - sorry honey!)
7:00 - Galumph takes Grumbles to the couch for some story time, and I have another quick look on the computer (coughcoughcelebsdressingsobadlyit'sfunnycoughcough!).
7:30 - After going through the toilet routine, then the drink of water routine, Grumbles is tucked up into bed. I sing Moon, Moon to her, then it's lights out and goodnight.
8:00 - Adult time! Actually, I don't know why I put an exclamation mark there - we're really not that exciting. We'll read, or perhaps watch a dvd on the computer. If we do that, we drag our couch up nice and close (I refuse to get a bigger monitor until this one actually explodes - there's enough useless appliance upgrading going on without me adding to it), and we'll grab the doona from our bed to cover ourselves so we keep warm and don't have to turn on the heating. If it's really cold, I put on a hat. Hey there, sexy! Attired in such a fashion we snuggle down and watch our film, then head to bed.
Whew! That took forever. So that's how I live my version of a green life - okay, sure, I'm no Colin Beavan, but we do make sure that we are being conscious about our footprint, and endeavor to reduce it as much as we possibly can, given our financial resources. We don't drive, nor fly, eat meat, or mindlessly consume. We have green power, invest ethically, and are happy to go out and plant some trees ourselves.
I'd love to hear what everybody else is doing - new ideas are always great. And remember - we're all in this together.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dermalogical dramas

Lady Jorth cast her knitting down upon her book, and reflected that she and cable needles would never - simply never! - get along. If it wasn't hiding underneath a cushion the moment she needed it, then it was slipping out of it's stitches, leaving her to watch in dismay as her swatch for Cherry unravelled. She ran her hand lightly over her sore face, and gave forth a great sigh.

Her husband, Sir Galumph, looked up at the exhalation and, ruffling the pages of his broadsheet, inquired "Why, whatever is the matter, my dear?"

"Oh, it's nothing really - just these blasted pimples on my chin. They do hurt one so!"

"How, at the ripe old age of 30, do you come to be having pimples, my love?", inquired Sir Galumph. He carefully put down his paper, and strolled over to have a closer look. "My God!", he cried as he recoiled in horror. "You dare call these pimples? My girl, you have a veritable pimple goatee! Please explain immediatley how such a thing has come about!"

Blushing, Lady Jorth tried to cover her face with her hands. "Well, it was that business with the hairs!", she cried. "I glanced in the glass the other morning, and realised that I was growing an absolute beard, so I thought to myself that something had to be done, and rushed off to the beauty salon for a wax."

"A beard!" murmured Sir Galumph in tones mixing disbelief with detestation.

Glancing up at his tone, Lady Jorth was struck anew with the abhorrance her new look was causing those around her. She glanced over at Jeeves, who resolutely kept his eyes to the ground. Falteringly, she went on. "And now it appears that I've had some sort of reaction, resulting in the formation of - what did you call it?"

"A pimple goatee", groaned Sir Galumph.

"Yes! A pimple goatee! And to think that we have the garden party on Sunday. I can never face the world in this state!". Wildly she rushed from the room, tears coursing down the valleys and hills of her now acne-scarred face, knitting left behind and forgotten.

"Jeeves!", bellowed Sir Galumph. "Get me a whiskey - a strong one!"

Monday, October 08, 2007

Dead rat three times

Does anybody else remember that song? Although I think it's actually called DCX3 - dead cat three times. Oh lookie here - not the actual video but you can hear the song. Anyway, I mention it because the worst that could occur, has:

The rat has died somewhere under the house. Did Dante's Inferno feature a house verily consumed with dead rat smell? Because that is the hell I am living.

Oh, and Grumbles spent most of Sunday day and night throwing up. Damn gastro bug. Note to self: tie up her hair before she next begins to vom. Makes life much easier if you don't have to wash hair alongside the jim jams, sheets, pillow etc etc.

Friday, October 05, 2007

What's a wintry day without a hand knit cardi?

Project specs:
Size: 3/4
Yarn: 6 balls Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran
Needles: 4.5mm
Buttons: 3 hand carved wooden buttons of ever so slightly varying sizes from Boutique Beads (179 St. Georges Rd, Fitzroy North)
As per usual, just in time for summer. D'oh!
Technical note: I didn't much fancy the way the stripes were worked according to the pattern, so I varied mine so that you couldn't see a purl row of the contrast colour coming in. My stripe sequence was thus:
Stocking stitch using main colour, ending with a purl row.
Begin stripe sequence:
Row 1 - *Knit one row using contrast colour
Row 2 - Knit
Row 3 - Purl
Row 4 - Knit
Row 5 - Change back to main colour. Knit
Row 6 - Purl
Row 7 - Knit
Row 8 - Purl
Row 9 - Knit
Row 10 - Purl*
Repeat from * to * until stripe sequence is complete.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Memorable recent quotes from Grumbles

In no particular order:

- "EEEEEEK! I just got scared by my Lego!"

- After bursting in on me whilst I'm on the toilet: "Mum, I'll always remember that I love you. Bye now!"

- "Hey Mum, look now - I can see my face in my poo!" (I think she was referring to her reflection in the toilet bowl, but who knows?!)

- "Mum, I just hurt my foot!"
"Are you ok?"
"Oh yes, foot very happy now!"

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dinner Daily article

As some of you might know, I also run a food blog, called Dinner Daily. A while ago I was contacted by the Life and Style editor of the Newcastle Herald newspaper, wanting to do an interview about the blog. "Well of course!", I replied. "Bring it on!"

So, without further ado, I am pleased (and just a little bit excited!) to present the article to you all.

Cyber food. One woman's menu for the world.

A month-long plan for simple meals with supermarket ingredients, and even the shopping list's done. Jenny Tarran is blissed out.
At last, recipes for the suburban kitchen
Last week hundreds of families around Australia were dishing up sweet potato and split pea soup with feta bread on Monday night, followed by Greek pastries with roasted root vegetables and maple syrup salad on Tuesday.
Then there was shepherd's pie with minted mushy peas on Wednesday, followed by cauliflower, broccoli and gruyere bake with braod bean toasties on Thursday and a slap-up dinner of chilli polenta chips with a green salad on Friday.
The reason behind this culinary co-ordination is that home cooks have been turning to Dinner Daily for some Monday-to-Friday meal inspiration.
Dinner Daily is a blog written by Melbourne mum Leisl, who each Saturday fires up her computer and works out a menu for the week.
Not only are there recipes involved, but most of the meals comes with photographs and she also includes the shopping list for the meals, broken down into fresh produce, dairy, dry goods and kitchen staples.
And it all came about because she and her husband decided it was environmentally better not to have a car.
The only problem with doing away with the car was that Leisl found that grocery shopping was difficult, so she decided to do the bulk of the shopping once a month, and then ony do short runs to her local shops that she and her toddler could turn into a fun excursions.
"We didn't want to always be begging friends or relatives for their cars so we could hit the supermarket, so I devised a plan", she said.
"Each month I sat down and figured out a monthly menu.
"I happened to mention our monthly menu plan to a few friends, and the response was always 'what a great idea', and most were flabbergasted to know that over the month we didn't eat the same meal twice and quite a few asked if I could share my recipe plans."
So she set up the Dinner Daily blog and, true to her word, has been sharing her recipes and shopping lists with the world.
"After having a think about it, I thought 'Why not!', and decided the best way to do it was to set up the website," she said.
"Also, eating meat has a huge impact on the environment, so I thought that putting some great vegetarian recipes out there might inspire people to reduce their meat consumption. Every little bit helps!"
So now Dinner Daily is being read by thousands around the world and giving the home cook a little bit of inspiration that comes from a domestic situation, not a huge corporation, and done with children in mind as well.
"I've had some amazing feedback from people, with quite a few admitting that now they just print off the shopping list each week and away they go," she said.
"One lady in New York actually prints copies out for her friends!"
"From a personal point of view, it's thrilling to know that people are inspired by the recipes, and find themselves happy to be in the kitchen trying new things."
The site:

How about that, hey? Wheeeeeee!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Meet my soon-to-be new wardrobe

A wee little while ago I went shopping, and picked up this:

... with the intention of making myself three variations of these:

Vogue 8184

So far, so good. But then I thought: Hark! I'll also need a wee little cardigan or two to go with my cute summer dresses.

So into the city I went. I had four criteria the cardigans had to meet: [1] They had to be green and red, to match the dresses; [2] they needed to be made out of natural fibres; [3] ideally made in Australia by an Australian company (gotta watch those clothing miles); and [4] they needed to be cute! And wearable!

I looked. And I looked. And then I looked some more. Now, if you are in the market for a nylon yellow very uncute cardigan with bows and frills and frippery of all sorts adorning it, I'm your girl. I know exactly where to find one. Or many. For they were in every single bloody shop. And all made in China, to boot (may I now ask, when did Australia stop producing knitwear?) And they all cost in the vicinity of $120 plus.

Now, in the words of Mary Poppins, that will never do! So I turned to the trusty internets. And what did I find?

I found Cherry! Cherry is the creation of the incredibly talented Anna of My Fashionable Life (and what a fashionable life it appears to be!). Now, run, don't walk, to the link, and have a click clickety click. Trust me, she's a beauty! Seriously - how cute is this cardi? It's sweet, and summery, and modern yet kinda vintage. Sigh. Just exactly - but exactly! - what I was looking for.

So of course I needed to run out and buy some of this:

So if you see a girl wearing a cute summer dress with a cute summer cardi in the yarn and fabric shown above, chances are it'll be me, so come on over and say hello. I have a feeling that it's going to be a splendid summer!