Thursday, December 29, 2005

More snow pictures

Like a good Cambridge photographer, I went out in the cold to get those romantic shots of favourite sites in the arty snow.
I want to make a hat on a circular needle and, despite the fact that I have a gajillion needles, I don't seem to have a short circ in the right size, so the route we took led to the yarn shop, past this Victorian pillar box. Too bad it was on the shady side of the street, but at least the snow hadn't melted out of the little lines!
The first place we checked didn't have the right needle, and although I had a gift certificate there, I didn't feel quite ready to commit to any yarn just then, so we moved on to the other place in town to get a knitting needle.
We passed this Elizabeth II space-pod pillar box, with just a bit of snow on top. It's streamlined, see, so no little niches to catch the snow. And facing the wrong way to catch snow on the gigantic cipher!
Onward to the post office, where I had to mail our absentee ballots for the upcoming Canadian election. And there we found this little pillar box, which really is a box on a pillar, and not a box shaped like a pillar, so I don't know if it has a special name!
The post office is near Robert Sayle, which, as I breathlessly announced yesterday, was having a sale. I found the right kind of needle, and then just had to pass the big bin of half-price wool. I got 3 skeins of Debbie Bliss Maya, two green variegated and one all pale blue and grey and misty, pearly coloured. I imagine a buttonhole bag, when I get back to my nice washing machine!
Also I snagged all the poopedy green Merino Chunky, which should make a nice vest for me, but probably not a full sweater with sleeves. I got a few balls of other colours, too, some grey, a dark green and a black. And Arthur, fun-loving guy that he is, chose some Rowan Cotton Tape in bright orange!
Stephen did ask if this yarn purchasing was reasonable, given the limited time we are staying here, as he doesn't want to transport "surplus" wool home. I pointed out that there is no such thing as surplus wool. I don't think he was convinced...
On the way home we came down onto Midsummer Common, and saw these valiant souls trying to sled, in an inch of snow on a 10-foot slope. Remember a few Winter Olympics ago, there was a British ski jumper? It's no wonder people laughed, if he got his start like this....

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Snow day activities

Here we are frolicking in the snow yesterday! It was not a lot of snow, but it was good and sticky and made great snowballs and piles to smash, and what more do we need. It mostly disappeared through the day, but more fell in the night!
If one shops for postcards and calendars of Cambridge scenes, there's always one of some snow, but never very much snow! I bet the pros were out in force getting the new picture of the chapel lightly dusted. My guys went out in search of thrills, but found that the town, lately so jammed with shoppers from the neighbouring area, was practically deserted. All the college stuff is closed up and the students have mostly vanished, so the few tourists in town have nowhere to go.
And of course, we had all our new toys to play with at home. You might have thought the favourite present would be the truck or the building toys or the half-knitted front of the Weasley sweater*, but I think Arthur liked the Cambridge Monopoly game the best. He whupped his parents totally in one afternoon. Arthur and I played and knitted for a bit, we took a break for a bit, played for a bit, and then, just before the complete rout, I handed over the game to Stephen, who oversaw the demolition of our entire fortune. (Those red cards in front of Stephen are all mortgaged!) Arthur had three of the transportation cards (instead of 4 railroads, there are the train station, airport, bus station and the Backs, for the river traffic) so that the rent on each one was 100 pounds. He got the cheap properties and quickly built hotels, since he kept landing on Free Parking and raking in all my tax money.... Oh, the misery of it.
But I could console myself with a cup of tea from my new teapot. Looky here! It's a hexagonal Victorian pillar box teapot!! Who would make such a thing? It's lovely!
I also got a gift certificate at the yarn shop, and ... oh, a Cambridge Monopoly game. Arthur and I spotted it one day, but didn't buy it. Then Arthur and Stephen saw it, and got it for me. Then Arthur and I were back in that street and I suggested we get it for Stephen this time, but he hemmed and hawed and suggested we should pass... you never know what might turn up under the tree... And then I lost so miserably.

*I made a valiant attempt at getting both initial fronts done on the kids' Weasley sweaters, but with them home from school for a few days before the 25th, it was pretty hopeless. I have now finished Elaine's front, and am well on the way on the A, but then, of course, I have backs and sleeves to knit! Their birthdays are coming...

Beep, beep, last minute announcement!! Cambridge knitters, Robert Sayle is having a wee sale and they have Debbie Bliss Maya for £4.50 (or was it £4.25?) and Merino Chunky for £1.45!! Rowan All-season Cotton, Cotton Tape, and another bin of decent acrylic, but I got stuck in the really nice stuff and couldn't spare a moment for the pretty nice stuff! Not much left, but run over asap! I just hopped in for a 40 cm circular 4 mm needle, and found myself quickly losing control....

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

It's snowing, it's snowing!

Hey, it's 7 am, still pretty dark, but I just wasn't sleeping and so got up. When what to my wondering eye did appear, but SNOW!!! Lucky us, the milkman has made his way through already. There's a good half-inch out there, so traffic will be snarled any time now. Pics of us all frolicking sure to follow!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

All the festive stuff

You can't find real snow around here these days, but Arthur and I lucked into this guy! Not very convincing, is it? Ah well... We know what a real snowman should look like!

And here is our little wee tree, decorated with handmade stuff, found objects (you wouldn't believe how many bike reflectors fall off bikes around here!) and a few charity shop baubles. We had to go on a quest for candy canes. We went to several shops which had sold out, and we were told by the sweet shop in the market that if we got there early on the weekend (last weekend!) there would be a couple of boxes, so we did manage to procure some, but it was a struggle. The postman has been delivering packages, so the space under the tree is filling up!

No snow, rare candy canes.... But we successfully made Midnight Brownies for Santa, so all will be well. (And baking brownies at least disguised the smell of Stinking Bishop, which is very hard to contain. We're eating it as fast as we can...) I've got brussels sprouts, wine, ice cream. All systems are go. We just have to clear a path through the living room so Santa doesn't trip over anything in the night!

Happy Christmas to you, and we can all celebrate that we've passed the solstice and the sun is coming back!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The stinkiest cheese in the world

Thanks to all my Frappr folk.
Some expected faces, and some completely unfamiliar!
It's great, but I need more! Go on, add yourself!

We went to the cheese shop today. Usually we buy
whatever takes our fancy at Tesco, but lately
Stephen's been eating stilton and liking the stinky
blue cheeses. So Arthur and I thought we'd get him
something special, and went to the specialists.
We got a fine bluish brie-ish thing that I can't
remember the name of. It's quite nice, and pictured on
the right. (You'll find out why they are all wrapped
up in a sec!)

And then my eye was caught by
something called Stinking
! Not blue, but who could resist? Apparently Wallace
and Gromit like it
I should have googled it before I opened it! The most
pongy cheese in these islands, says one report. Smells
like old socks, says another. Apparently they make
cheese, then "wash" it in
, which is pear cider, made from Stinking
It actually tastes not bad, if you can get it up to your mouth without fainting from the smell, but I wouldn't take it to
a party... And I don't think I can keep it in my fridge for too long!

And what does Stephen think of it?

Hmmmm, not bad!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sign my map!

Check out our Frappr!
Well, it is time for me to join in. Everyone else has a Frappr map, and now I need one too. You can help me out here. Just click on the little Frappr box, and it will take you to my map, where you find your location, type in your name, and put a pin in my map. Then I can see just who is reading this! It'll be sort of like Christmas cards!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Two events, one photo

Things have been hopping around here. Arthur and Stephen are out at this moment on some secret mission, and I had to run upstairs quickly and without attracting any attention when the postman delivered something to me this morning. Such fun!

Last night we went to the college children's Christmas party. There was a treasure hunt and limbo dancing, and Father Christmas himself arrived, with Rudolph helping with the baggage. Then the buffet! How ... unvegetabley! Sausage rolls, pork pie, cheese pizza (this is English pizza, with maybe edam cheese or something) and sandwiches -- egg, tuna, cheese, ham. There were some cherry tomatoes for garnish, and I guess experience has told them that the veg don't get eaten, but it was a bit pork-heavy to my eye. But what the heck, it's Christmas... And then we got entertained by Steve Sausage! who was a laugh a minute, and the best part was he let all the kids (and adults!) play with all the stuff! Arthur walked on funny wheels, while tossing a juggling pin from hand to hand! Elaine "tightrope walked," going on the wheels holding a baton horizontally for balance! Stephen got to show off his juggling!! (And decided he should learn to spin a plate on a stick if he wants to really wow his first-years.) And I clapped and knit a square and juggled a bit, but not so that anyone could really see!

But... it was cold and dark when the kids and I left home to go to this event; all the taxis in town were busy so we had to walk; I was in a flap because I knew Elaine wouldn't want to walk all that way and I would end up carrying her... and I forgot the camera. So, no pictures. Sorry... But when we start up our family circus, we'll get pictures.

The other grand event was Elaine's school production. She was an angel, in a white shirt, wings and a halo. There were 4 classes involved, 5 and 6-year-olds, and the whole thing lasted almost an hour! Some kids acted in a little play about the family gathering for Christmas dinner, and they referred to the Christmas story, so some other kids played Mary and Joseph finding a room at the inn, some kids played the goats in the stable and so on. There were Three Wise Dudes in shades and shimmery sequinned capes, and a choir of angels. Here you can see Elaine's blonde head as they skipped through the audience up to the stage. Mostly I could see the backs of other parents' heads and a blur of kids on stage. Luckily when they got all the kids up for the grand finale song, the angels were front and centre, so I got some pictures of her waving her arms in an unfocussed mass of other angels' arms, but I don't really think it's necessary to show them. In any event, the kids had a great time doing it, and the singing was lovely, and it was a great accomplishment.

Two more days of school. Some knitting happening. Baking chocolate purchased. We've got everything under control.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

OK, Santa, we're ready!

Here are the four stockings. I finished the last one last night, mostly in the pub, with Liz and Anne, who has documented the whole affair, and Rosie and several others! I had enough of the red left for maybe half a stocking, so "next time" I would make each one a little bigger. But there will be no next time, really. Now we just have to figure out how to set them up for Santa. We have a brick fireplace-like thing with a square hole in it, which used to hold an electric fire, but now is just a hole. Poor Santa will have to come in through the front door, I guess.
And here is one of them with the buttons I got yesterday. I wonder if I should sew some of them on to make initials or other designs... I love sifting through bins of buttons and coming up with some gems, and I did just that in a thrift store yesterday, after a rather fruitless Christmas shopping attempt. I got the kids some clothes that they needed, but had no luck with the secret fun stuff.
Now, do you think I can knit those Harry Potter sweaters before the 25th? Do you think I should even try??

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Not just a knitting blog!

Now, lemme tell you, this is not just a knitting blog, no, not even just a knitting blog/ travelogue! We now offer you the cooking show portion of the blog!

Once, long, long ago, I bought one of those 101 Great Christmas Cookies magazines. We have a few favourites, but I bet there are about 95 recipes we've never tried. So I set the kids to look through and find something new to make. Ack, Arthur picked meringues! I love to eat them, but thought they were hard to make. And we have no electric mixer! Actually, we have the body, but I can't find the whipper part! So, we
set to work (after I cleared the dining room table of all junk, thinking all the while, "maybe I really am born to clean!") with a whisk and 4 egg whites. Who knew what soft peaks are, or stiff but glossy peaks!? Well, now I know we definitely got soft peaks, but I'm not sure we ever made it to "stiff but glossy."
But we did manage to make little white blobs, and put sprinkles on them, and bake them, and now we've just about eaten them all! So I guess it was a success all around! Next time, I'm waiting till we have a mixer, coz I injured my knitting muscles with all that whisking!
For our next trick, we'll make our fave molasses cookies, I think, if I can find molasses in the grocery store. If only I could find the Aunt Jemima aisle... So far all I've come across is golden syrup, which I used to love on vanilla ice cream, but I'm sure it won't work in molasses cookies!

On the knitting front, three stockings down, one to go!

(And Arthur had one heck of an omelet for dinner!)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Oh dear

I took this quiz twice, because who wants to be dishcloth cotton?! But even though I tried for snazzier answers the second time, I'm still dishcloth cotton. Also, I really think it's wrong, because never in my life have I been described as "born to clean"!

You are dishcloth cotton.
You are Dishcloth Cotton.
You are a very hard worker, most at home when
you're at home. You are thrifty and seemingly
born to clean. You are considered to be a Plain
Jane, but you are too practical to notice.

What kind of yarn are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Knitting in the pub

Here's some fun this Tuesday night:
Knitting night, Tuesday 13 December, 7-9pm, *new venue*, The Regal (Wetherspoons), St Andrews St, Cambridge. Warning for young (and young-looking) knitters: the door policy here is over-21s only, with bouncers who check id from about 7.00pm onwards. Inside is vast, so we'll aim for downstairs, right at the back (which is often, but not always, a non-smoking area). Tuition and yarns, needles etc available for anyone who'd like to learn.

I'll be knitting a chenille stocking... unless I have them all finished by then... Or maybe the denim sleeve, or perhaps a sock.... Maybe I'd better go out and get another project, perfect for knitting nights....

Friday, December 09, 2005

More fall colour

More lovely Cambridge scenery! Midsummer Common on your left.

The river has been full of action these past few days. A while ago I saw rowing eights full of people in costume: a boat full of pirates, one full of fairies with pink wings, one load of bunnies with big ears. Those wacky undergrads... And they've obviously been practising a lot, and the other day we counted 10 eights and a bunch of fours coming back down the river, looking as if they'd been racing -- or at least working really hard! Those early morning traffic jams under the bridge are all leading up to something!

I took these pictures today on my way to the grocery store on my bike, where I bought a lot of stuff and had to haul it all home in the bike basket. Usually if I think I'll buy a lot, I take my little wheelie-cart, but today I'd not planned on getting too much. However, a few 500g packages of pasta and a few cans of beans and a few other things, and I've got a lot of weight in that basket. It's like the front wheel has a mind of its own and it's quite hard to manoeuvre, and I was just hoping the wicker basket would make it home in one piece! Sometimes I wish I had a minivan! (No, not really!)

But this is what I get to see on my bike on the way to the store! Look at that colour! It's quite amazing when the sun shines on these brown leaves; they're so rich and coppery and shiny! And they go so well with the willows across the river.

Our few frosty days seem to have passed, and we are back to our lovely sunshine and 5 degree C days. One can go out in a big sweater, without an actual coat (and one day I'll make myself a hat and mitts and scarf that all at least sort of match)! Perfect winter, if you ask me. The kids are still hoping for snow, but I'm quite happy, thank you!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Misty musings

I hope you can see all the wonderful fall colours here. Much better in person, I can assure you. A lot of the leaves have fallen since, after all, it's December, but there are still these beautiful golds and browns and rusts and greens and olives and greys all over, with a Victorian pillar box to really liven things up! This was taken one day when I was on my way from the library (where I had to return Rowan Babies because someone had put a hold on it) to our college for lunch (Stephen gets a number of meals per month, and I was just helping him reach his quota). The college is not romantic and neo-Gothic or even Victorian; it was built in 1969 and has some quite uncomfy knitting chairs in the lounge. It does have family suppers, and we suspect that the Big Guy in Red will be at the December one. So, we like it.

We are gearing up for Christmas. I've finished one chenille stocking and I'm halfway through the second, and when I've done four, that's really all the knitting I have to do for Christmas. I'm also working on the denim (I'm making Solo for some random 2-3-year-old and am thinking about a pair of Blu jeans, too!) and my pondering about the Perfect Sweater has taken me in some funny directions. Somehow I've gone from making myself a nice wool cardigan from Yorkshire Tweed, to deciding on these for the kids*! Now, "deciding on" doesn't necessarily mean that I've got the wool or anything, but it's at least my present plan... It all started when I went to see the Goblet of Fire and got taken by this sweater and found myself wandering the web till I found Ron's great afghan. Anyways, the Harry Potter knitting just took my fancy, and although I'm one of the last moms to knit a Weasley, I think I shall order the kits and get on with them, and I'll just make myself my Summer Tweed sweater before the spring....

Oh, back to Christmas... We got ourselves a fake tree from a charity shop and hope to get it up this week. The kids are winding themselves up, of course. Elaine is in the school production. She will be an angel, dressed in a long white T-shirt (and we got a note asking if we could make sure she wears plain white undies on the day of the show! Show me a 5-year-old girl with plain white undies!). In Toronto the kids will be singing Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, but here we get the full Nativity story, Away in a Manger, Silent Night and all that! Elaine likes to read the blog, and was quite taken when I mentioned Going Jesus, and she's always saying, "We're really going Jesus at school these days!" Yes, well... I can't wait till Easter.

And to end on a "smallish world" note: We had a little party, which was really only 2 other families and us, but with 6 kids in total it seemed to totally fill the house. One of the families are our neighbours, whom we met because their kids and ours ride bikes up and down. And we know the other family because in 1980-something the woman and a friend of ours from Vancouver worked together on an archeological dig here in England, and they have kept in touch. So, pretty funny connections. But, these people were talking, and our biochemist neighbours were talking to the biophysicist husband of the archeologist, and they know people in common (for example, another neighbour!) and it was kinda weird. Six degrees of separation indeed.

*PS. I ordered these kits Wednesday online, and indeed, they put them in the post that afternoon and now, Thursday morning, they arrived! Nice wool with 10% silk, could be a bit scratchy, and I'm wondering if I can knit one by Xmas. Pretty sure I can't knit two. Will keep you posted.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Two just started...

My intention really is to get the number of things on the needles down to 2 or 3, but I decided that we need some Christmas stockings (or giant ankle socks) and so got some of that sale bin chenille for them. Here is #1. The yarn comes in big balls and I think I can get 3 or 4 out of the two balls, if I have the patience to knit them. Of course, we have stockings at home in Toronto, but it seemed silly to bring them. What the heck, we'll be able to choose next year which stocking we want to hang up.... I cast on 44 stitches (with sock yarn that makes a 2-year-old size, and it's about as many as I could fit on my dpns) and am just knitting a sock. Not one that would actually fit anyone, though.... Sort of short and wide... The main colour is more burgundy than hot pink, and the green more olive.

The other thing is a sleeve of the denim yarn. I have 7 balls of medium blue and 7 balls of dark, and this little jean jacket takes 7 balls for the 2-3-year size. I don't actually have a child that small anymore, but I think I can find one if I look around. We shall see how this works out. My washer and I have a rather poor relationship, and I'm not sure I will trust it with this stuff. I have to wash the pieces before sewing it up, and it will lose a lot of colour in that first wash. I might just take home a bunch of pieces and wash them next summer! Who knows, maybe the pieces of 2 little sweaters?!

Tonight, fancy Christmas dinner #1, with some colleagues of Stephen's. The season is upon us!