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Wednesday, 29 December 2010

post or no post?

everything postal is still delayed - partly down to the bad weather over the last few weeks (not only here, there was mayhem at airports all over europe), but also because of the odd habit of making up for public holidays that fall on weekends on the following workdays. no postal delivery from last friday until tomorrow! unfortunately most of my christmas parcels didn't arrive before the big day - but I guess there's nobody to blame but the weather... I did take photos of some finished things though - the table mat/napkin ring/egg cosy for my MIL is one:
 it's knitted in herringbone pattern (B. Walker pattern book series) for the set (over 2 stitches) and linen stitch (essentially the same, but only over 1 stitch) for the cosy/ring and the green border of the mat. it's a blend of linen and cotton, so everything is fully machine washable - apart from the egg cosy. I thought about it for a while, but decided that a machine washable cosy doesn't make much sense, if it doesn't keep the egg warm:)) that's why I lined it with a knitted insert in wool... I don't think egg cosies need to be washed very often or very hot!




a close-up of the flowers/leaves on the cosy... with small beads for the centre of the flowers - from the stash.

in hindsight - I would have liked it better if the colours were brighter - but DH thought those colours will go better with the dishes.... it's just that brighter colours would have made using the items more fun, esp. when you eat by yourself? or maybe that's just me....






this is the first stage of another gift project. personally I am  not really  not at all a collector of knitted toys, but a friend of mine loves all kinds of mice. so a mouse it had to be... after a lot of searching I decided to follow a ravelry pattern for a mouse called "marisol"... this is marisol in all her parts:)) it's not difficult, just fiddly - one of those patterns, where it takes longer to put all the parts together than the actual knitting of them!
may I introduce you to my Marisol (or whatever the new owner will name her)! this is her, wearing a pink ribbon with a small silver bell -  and making my friend nearly cry with delight.... whatever it takes to make people happy:))
the biggest problem wasn't the making of the mouse - but finding a suitable yarn in light pink! now, purple is there in many shades, cardinal red, bright red, dark rosewood... but nothing that suited a mouse tail and ears. eventually I found a small sample of ingeo fibre dyed with madder some years ago. good thing that ingeo doesn't take natural dyes well:))





I also made her a "snack box" with filling: homemade elderberry cognac (good against cold - but it also tastes nice:)), chocolate stirrers (a mix of melted chocolate, icing sugar, cocoa and spices - with a wooden "stick" to put into hot milk) - and a first: milk jam! I tried it and it tastes yummeh.... you just boil milk with sugar or honey, a vanilla pod, some soda or baking powder and a pinch of salt, until it changes into a creamy light caramel of sorts. it takes a bit of patience and a lot of stirring - but is simple to make otherwise. unfortunately I gave all of it (it was barely a jar full, all that was left from 1 l of milk!) away, so I'll have to make a new batch for us to eat soon.... sometimes it's not easy to find ideas for homemade gifts - but thanks to the internet I usually find something new.

Monday, 27 December 2010

back to normal?

we are back to the usual irish winter weather - cold, but not frosty, windy and wet.... after sunset yesterday everything was still white - and this morning there were only bits and pieces left. which is great, because we can get back to normal again. or so we thought! not quite though: the cold water in the kitchen is back - but the frost crept through the pipes into our water pump, which cracked - so that we cannot pump water up to the tank, where it is needed:(( major repairs, hundreds of euro worth in damages - and we can't do it immediately, because the shop that sells pumps won't open again until mid january:(( we might be able to order the pump by mail order, but even so it will be at least 2 weeks before we're back to normal waterwise..... probably right at the time,when we get another frosty spell:(( the good thing is that the big tank is defrosted and I don't have to carry the water buckets all around the house. just two steps out the back will give me full buckets.
today we spent time with some cleaning up as well. the hungry birds are mostly gone - we're still feeding, but even though the seeds and nuts are still there - the birds seem to be keen to find their nourishment elsewhere. which is good, because they're not supposed to rely totally on our feeding! I miss the flurry of them in front of the window a bit - but I am aware that it isn't ideal for them as they don't like to be that close to each other! look at the mess they left behind:
it's mostly seed husks, but also spilled seeds and nuts... we brushed it to one side so that they can collect the edible seeds from the heap, but at least the area doesn't look like a warzone anymore:)))










I am not sure that most of our plants were that lucky. last year the camellias along the south wall of the house did well despite the frost. but this years' second cold spell was far colder - and to me this camellia doesn't look too happy right now! I hope it'll recover, but judging from the leaves it might have serious frost damage. the same for a lot of the garden plants, though the lower ones were covered in snow, which might have helped in sheltering them from the worst. another waiting game - we'll see in late spring which ones survived and how many are gone for good.... 

last night I also finished my advent KAL scarf, but I have to block it before I can show it - right now it's just a white scrunchy heap of stitches:)) I still have some yarn left from it, about 80 g of cashmere/silk, which I am doubling up and knitting into a simple small moebius neck warmer. I am barely withouth my other one these days - it's soft and warm, but not overly so in our relatively cold cottage. I also started a small embroidery project - a baby gift, which I have been looking forward to doing for some time now!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

end of year = new books arrive

ever since I remember christmas - I remember receiving books. I love books of all kinds and I still receive them as presents. nowadays I tend to gift new books to myself as well - I exchange received money presents for them, mostly craft books:)) this year is no different - those are my newest ones:
these are no. 3 and 4 of B. Walker's pattern series - I received no. 1 and 2 two years ago for christmas. I also received another subscription for Wild Fibres, which I am looking forward to again, very interesting! 
those are two of the same publisher, useful designs, some basic ones, and some a bit more daring:))
this is all about christmas decoration - I know, it's too late for this year, but then being "after christmas" is also being before christmas, isn't it?:)) I like the designs a lot, most are quite simple to make, but rather pretty and not too kitschy...

I meant to buy this one some time ago, but couldn't find it at the K&S, but I am glad I bought it, because I really like the block designs in this style. I had a hard time deciding between one of Susan Briscoe's sashiko designs and this one, but I decided to get this one first, because I have two or three other sashiko books already. (sorry for the blurry pic, but of course you can find it at amazon)

 this is the only one in german, it's about making your own foody presents and it is full of lovely recipes, mostly simple to make, but effective.


this sock book has originally been published in german, but is offered now in english by interweave. lots of interesting sock patterns and designs, not too outlandish, all wearable, but still interesting to knit.


those two are a result of falling in love with tea cosies - I bought the really wild ones at the K&S - but couldn't resist the other book when I saw it again on amazon! the designs are mad fun - and I am sure I will make some more, though not necessarily following exactly the shown designs. if you're looking for gift ideas for those, who have everything else - I am sure they'll be surprised to find one of those tea cosies:))


this one has really taken some time to get my hands on. I wanted to buy it since autumn, but both times I went into the book shop in Castlebar, the book wasn't available. I am going to finish the one I am reading just now - and then it's the third in the Celine Kiernan series - which I am looking forward to a lot! ok, it's meant to be a teenager read - but I liked the first two of the series, so I am quite sure I'll like the finish of the story! 
I also received a useful craft present - new embroidery scissors plus a "garage" for them. good thing, too, because my old pair is quite blunt (someone male used it for something other than cutting threads and fabrics:(() and the second pair is really tiny and difficult to grip!

and more books - this time two german novels... 











I am well equipped for the days between christmas and the new year - but I'll also finish my advent KAL and my last gift project - which I show you later this week! of course it's not all fun and games here - I had to make more bird cakes today as the beasties have been so ravenous and the shops were raided:(( I melted some fat and added seeds, chopped nuts, raisins, oatflakes etc. and voila - new fatty food for the dozens of visitors outside. I hope they'll like my homemade stuff - it's great fun to watch them from the living room window, though sometimes I'd like to be able to shoo away just the big bullies! and I wonder how our seating area will look in the spring - full of sprounting bird seeds probably:))


Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

I wish everybody a happy Christmas and a healthy and positive year 2011 to come!

this is a picture from today - white christmas, with sunshine to boot! we don't have to go anywhere for a few days and I am glad that I don't have to travel on those roads right now. I am going to enjoy the next few days - and will take the time to sit at my spinning wheel for the first time in several weeks!

Enjoy the holidays and greetings from the west of ireland!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

too much white

I don't have to go anywhere right now - but even so, I am getting a bit fed up with the white stuff. and today the sun was gone - replaced by freezing fog. even more white - for the few metres that were visible!

the birds are totally ravenous, I stopped counting them because there are so many! yesterday I saw my very first snipe in ireland - at the front gate!!  it must be bad for them outside; they barely move from their feeders, even when we open the door and pass them close by... I hope that we'll have a thaw soon - I am going to buy a bigger pack of bird nuts and if I can, more of those fat/seed filled coconut shells they seem to love so much! they were very low in those at the supermarket last time with those shells;  if they don't have them anymore, I plan on making my own out of fat and chopped nuts, raisin and seeds...

I also went for a quick walk with the dog today (after doing my "chores" - mainly refilling every pot, pan and bowl with water from our outside tons:)) - and saw some things close up - with the camera:
Dobby loves snow - the more the better:)) she rolls around in it, sticks her nose in and runs along trees to cover herself with the falling snow - maybe she was a sleigh dog in a former life?:) look at her, she says: come on, don't be lazy, let's go for a walk....
 the freezing fog has covered everything with a fine layer of ice needles - the whitethorn looks as if it is in full flower....




but not everything is more beautiful because of the snow! this is one area of the garden, where the frost during last winter nearly killed most of our NZ hollies. most of them did sprout out again - but I wonder if they'll survive repeated hard winters. the empty area here is where we had to cut down the growth of the long branches... and I doubt they'll grow back if they have to battle against long hard winters every year!
makes for a nice "running" area for the dog though:))

the gorse suffers from frost, too - if it goes too far down with the temperatures they'll turn brown and drop off their "needles", but they sprout out easily again and make up for the loss with massive growth. this one has every needle covered with ice - it looks a bit softer than before!







the palm suffers more, I think! it even looks cold - the leaves drop down at the tips and look thoroughly bedraggled:(( it survived the last cold winter, so I do hope it will last through this one. we'll see in the spring, how many victims we have to mourn this time:((
 the frost must be hard on insects, too. those cobwebs look pretty, when frozen - but the many spiders blocked in the icy layers on our watertanks show the real picture..... 

Sunday, 19 December 2010

exchange of scarves

we have had another christmas exchange in the Online Guild - this time it was scarves. I made my exchange item (can this be called a "scarf"?:)) out of corriedale and alpaka, a two-ply yarn in blues and pink and grey as "background" - as the recipient said that those were her favourites:


the collar part is knitted - the rest is done in crochet. this is actually the first model I made, the black one was the second, as I liked it and wanted one for myself.... you can roll the collar up or keep it down, fix it with the "button" (a crochet ball) or use a brooch etc. to fix it higher up.  
and this is what I received from my exchange partner - a lace scarf, made from a handspun blend of silk and merino. very soft and nice to wear - and the colours go with most of my wardrobe!















this is a detail of the lace pattern, circles, surrounded by "holes":)) it's not too heavy to wear, but still warm and soft! I don't like giant rolls of material around my neck - this is just slim enough to not make me feel choked!

of course I am still working on the advent KAL in lace - but by now it is so long that it's hard to show photos. it's not long now until all 24 patterns are finished - so I'll show the photo once I have done the last one - plus blocking of course. I think I will keep this one, too - as the cashmere is soft and warm, and I had planned to use some of the patterns used for some other knitting anyway.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

more of the same....

...and lots more! on wednesday the roads were snow and icefree... didn't last long though, thursday evening it took all of 10 minutes to cover everything in a white blanket! the header photo is from yesterday - before the next batch came down! by now we have between 20-30 cm of snow - and more, where the wind blew it into heaps! I like winter, really, I do - but does it have to be so much? and this evening the running water froze - also again! back to pots on the stove and carrying buckets:)) DS was happy though - he had no school yesterday - and the way it looks, this will be it until the new year! the postman did make it again today - we'll see if he manages tomorrow as well (more snow to come apparently!). today we could see that his car flattened the snow in the middle of the road - if there is much more, he won't be able to drive down, I guess!
this is the polytunnel - with some of the first snow load removed - but I can't reach the top! it was covered again last night - with about the same amount on top of yesterday's load... it's very dark inside, gloomy and cold....









I took some photos today - it is interesting to see the garden in the snow. everything looks different, and the structure of the garden becomes more visible. this is one of our "gates"; we have planted pairs of trees in different spots and prune them at the bottom and on the outside, but not in the middle, so that their branches knit together in the middle to form a doorway. it looks a bit like going into a different room:))




I spent the day with filling up the bird feeders (they are ravenous now, with snow everywhere), trying to keep the paths around the house snowfree (and the evergreens, to keep the heavily loaded branches from snapping!)  and clearing away some of the stuff I used for making cards, presents etc. I managed to send away all my christmas parcels - but they might still be delayed, because there's mayhem in germany as well! apparently trucks are barred from driving right now - they are all stuck in some laybys along the autobahn:(( I think I've been lucky - most of my amazon order from the uk arrived extremely quickly - I am just waiting for one book that is sent from germany, no rush with this one though.

of course I spent most of the last weeks with presents. this is a pattern I found on ravelry - a mole in a hole:)) I couldn't resist it - I think I have a new addiction: tea cosies! by now I have several books with them and my fingers are itching to make some more. this one was a bit problematic, because I only have one teapot here. and I know that the recipients' teapot is larger - but by how much? difficult to guess and asking would of course be a giveaway! so I used pure wool (the green is kilkarra tweed, the rest is handspun, and sockwool for the mole). the mole can be removed and the whole thing could be felted if needed. it has two layers, the inside is lined with more kilkarra knitting, to keep the tea hot for a long time.... difficult to take a photo, when there isn't a large enough teapot for underneath - but you'll get the drift.


the pattern is easy to knit - afterwards I thought I could have done it on a circular needle and just knit rows, where I need holes for the pot. the only fiddly bits were the "fingers" of the mole - but not really difficult, just narrow i-cords.
now I would like to make one for us as well (at least I have the pot to check the size:)) - but it's hard to decide for a pattern! a "normal" one? or one with a funny shape? or one totally over board - like some of those? we'll see, I have to make one more christmas present - and then I can start on a new design!

anyway, my plan for next year is to finally get a few things done for my own home (did I say this last year already?:)) - not only a tea cosy, but also some cushions, one or two carpets, a new bathroom curtain etc...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

knitter's block?

I know that artists and writers sometimes talk about having "painting block" or writer's  block..... I think I must have had knitter's block, when I knitted the second sleeve for DS's new school sweater... maybe my brain cells are frozen? or I was so bored with knitting that much stocking stitch, that I was slightly addled...anyway, I finished the first sleeve and started with the 2nd right away. the first lay beside my chair all the time, I counted stitches and checked several times - all the time wondering, why the rib on the second one is so much tighter than on the first... I even checked the needle size!

this is the second rib.... (after taking it off again)
 and here you can see the first one below and the second one on top! I don't know where my head was when I didn't see - that I knitted 2 k, 2 p instead of 1 each - but I did! and only really saw my mistake, when I had nearly finished the 2nd sleeve... I couldn't just leave it like it is - it would drive me nuts to know this:)) eventually I took off the second rib and knitted a new one (this time correctly:)) - in the opposite direction. once it's worn the difference won't be visible anymore... but sometimes I wonder about the partial blindness that one can develop and not see the obvious:)) by now the sweater is finished and I am glad to get rid of stocking stitch for now!

when I took the rib photos I went outside to the garden table. which is covered in snow, but on top of the snow the rain during the last few days together with the hard frost we had  formed tiny icy needles. not only do they sparkle like jewels in the sunlight - when you touch them slightly (with the knitting) they make a sound like chimes - very pretty! my table looks like covered with a sparkly terry cloth:)) or one of those fancy lash yarns? oh, yes - we are still frozen in - and despite the slightly warmer forecast for the weekend I have my doubts that the roads will be free of ice again any time soon. the next cold spell will come next week already!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

living a simpler life?

last year we had the first severe winter I've seen over here - and I came here 15 years ago. the winter I first visited, we had a bit of frost and some snow, but it was all over after a few days. we have had one or two winters with a lot of snow - for a day or two; then it melted and that was that. and then last winter! that was a big one for us, not only extremely cold, but the change in weather conditions made it very hazardous as well. now, for those of you, who live in areas with cold winters it might be nothing new. but the irish live in a usually very mild climate! cars drive on summer tyres (and some had no profile left even on those, as we saw last year!), pipes run along the outside walls etc. nobody has much experience, be it with driving around or living under "restricted" conditions. I think our ancestors would have a good laugh at people nowadays - they were well used to walking or driving a cart and running water? could be found in a stream:))

we have adjusted quite well, I think. we are lucky to still have gas and electricity and the telephone of course. non of that was availabe 150 years ago! but the pipes are frozen (they still are, the very slight thaw does nothing to a block of ice in the tank at the north wall:)) and showers are not possible right now. instead we use this:
 we use the stanley to heat 1/2 of the house (it has radiators connected to it) and our running water for the kitchen. we have a smaller stove in my room at the other end of the house, but it only heats that room and the bathroom - and gives hot water for the bathroom as well. of course, now they still heat up the water - but the running water doesn't work. so we can switch to heating only the radiators, which means that they heat up quite well and make for a warm and cosy house during evenings and nights. the pot on top looks small - but it actually contains 25 l of water, when full. it's a canning pot - old, but still very useful. if you wanted to have a full bath, you'd need several of those, but for a half bath, this pot with hot water and another smaller one from the other room (plus of course cold water to "tone" it down:)) is enough! it might not be as convenient as running water, but it works well enough - and certainly better than our ancestors had it with an open fire and very little hot water! (did I mention that the washing machine still works - that pipe is well "hidden" and doesn't seem to freeze....)

of course during a cold spell like that there is one other important thing - for all the outdoor jobs a necessity really. the water has to be carried inside in buckets, coal or timber for heating has to be brought in, and of course - if you want to do any shopping, right now you have to walk to town (or use the bike, which I don't dare on the snow/ice - coward that I am:)). usually we get our stuff delivered, but in this weather the supermarket only delivers inside the town. luckily we have most of our supplies for emergencies here now - we only have to go to town for some fresh stuff like fruits, eggs etc. so here they are, my second essential item in the house:
 some people show their killer heels on their blogs - but there's no such thing in this house. those are my trusted boots, comfy and warm and pretty much non-slip, apart from sheer ice... they don't exactly look dainty and pretty, but they keep my feet toasty:))
another essential (at least I think so!) during this cold weather is tasty food! normally I make my poppy stollen for the first advent sunday, but this year I was delayed... so here it is - for the 2nd advent sunday:)) hmmm, delicious...
unfortunately poppy seeds aren't all that easy to buy over here, but I discovered tins with ready-prepared polish poppy seed filling in the local supermarket! I added some bits such as chopped almonds, more raisins etc. and it worked quite well. and saved me grinding the poppy, boiling it etc. 

not everything fared so well though. remember the last rosehips here? they didn't like the frost one bit and the thaw even less - this is how they look now! the birds don't mind the decay though - I saw them "attacking" the hips, when they turned soft and squishy! they still have a gorgeous colour though - which reminds me of the bags full of frozen hips that I still have to turn into jam!

there is hope for higher temperatures towards the end of the week - if they come you'll probably see me dashing into town and stocking up again on all kinds of food/supplies:)) I am pretty sure that this won't be the end to winter.....
stay warm if it's similiar over where you live!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

a bit of progress

no, we didn't get rid of the snow yet - in fact it became even worse last night, when temperatures stayed very slightly above zero C for a while - and it started to rain onto the frozen ground:(( my plan to walk to town this morning failed, because now everything is covered by a thin layer of ice. well, the best plans... we'll see how it looks next week.

instead of walking into town I finished my next bit on the christmas scarf KAL:
it's too long to fit my A 4 blocking mat, so the lower edge is out of the picture already. it knits up nicely and I am happy I did start, even though I am not sure that I'll always have the time to finish the next clue. I am rather bold and just add the separating bits before I receive the next clue, but it's not set in stone anyway:))
I like the patterns so far, even though the piece isn't properly blocked of course, so everything still looks a bit crumpled up.

I saw some pix on ravelry, where people added more beads (I only have them in one row of the spacer section) - but I counted mine from the stash and I am just above the required number - and don't want to buy any new bits for this project. so I'll leave it at this.
the last pattern so far was the most interesting one - it looks a bit like flat cables, but is just lace of course.

I am also working on several other projects for christmas, but can't show progress on them just now - in case the recipient reads my blog. so off I go, some housework might be in order and I also want to bake my poppy seed stollen, otherwise we'll even miss it on the 2nd advent sunday!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

it's still going on....

no sign of a let-up in snow and ice - though we seem to be the lucky ones today. on the radio they warn about awful conditions in the east, because they had a lot of fresh snow over night. outside the sun is dazzling - no change really from the last few days. we still get postal deliveries (our postman is a hero - he didn't miss a single day during the last bad winter!!) - and today I received an item that is intended as a christmas gift. it's handmade, but not by me - I will not start beadmaking (mantra: I will not start, I will not start....:)). the collecter loves hippos - so a hippo it has to be:
isn't it gorgeous? I love it - and don't really want to give it away again... if you're interested in more, I got mine from Suzie Sullivan here.... it would go so well with froggie in my pot:))
 I also fell for another KAL - this time it's a shorter project, a "christmas calender", so we'll get the clue every day from today onwards until christmas. it's a lace scarf and when I saw the first clue up late yesterday evening, I just had to grab my needles and yarn do to the first clue. it was only 16 rows long, so it worked up quickly enough... I had planned lace for this yarn anyway - it's fine cashmere with 2 very fine threads of schappe silk. not tightly plied, I just let the two silk threads run into the wheel with the (commercial) cashmere that was leftover from the grey coat I made last year. I also had just enough clear beads with silver lining to add - very fitting for the weather right now, soft and warm - but with some sparkle too:))
as you can see - we were still snow bound this morning. after the hard frost at night everything is covered in ice crystals and the sun blinks and dazzles until it is warm enough (overstatement - you'd have to be an ice crystal to feel this warmth:)) to melt them....
in the close-up you can see the single fine silk threads - I hope I won't pull them out when using the scarf later.... it knits up nicely, the yarn is very soft but warm and I look forward to the finished project. if you want to participate - you can either go to ravelry (it's available in english, too!) or check out the details here. 
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