Wednesday, May 31, 2006

To the seaside!

It's the end of May. Flowers are blooming and birds are tweeting and it is nice and sunny quite often. However, as we have been slowly learning, it is also pouring rain quite often. Almost always with the laundry on the line...

The kids are on a break from school (again!) and we thought that this time we'd see the local scene instead of going on a big expedition. So, I decided that we would go to Great Yarmouth, to the seaside. The kids got their shovels and their sunhats, and I packed a bag of sweaters and jackets and some sausage rolls, and off we went. Two trains, passing cows and calves and little lambikins and flat, flat fields, and we get to Great Yarmouth.

Walk towards the ocean, feel the first drops of rain. Huddle in the market and eat some chips and gravy. Feel even more rain, run for the shelter of the big church, St Nicholas. It's an unusual church: it goes back to 1101, it's very large for a parish church, there are lots of model ships, because of all the seafarers involved, and it was totally ruined by an incendiary bomb in WWII. And more! When it was rebuilt, they painted the ceilings as they would have been originally, and they are beautiful!

Rain stops, run for beach, dig in sand. The beach is actually quite nice and sandy, though it faces right onto the North Sea and would always be windy, I think. The fact that there's a wind farm just offshore supports that! We did get a bit of digging in, and of course a bucket of water became necessary, so Arthur got wet beyond his knees. When I suggested we stop for a hot chocolate, they decided that one eats ice cream at the beach, not hot chocolate, so that soon they were cold inside and out. Lucky them, Mommy brought that bag of warm clothes. We continued along the waterfront, looking at the pirate mini-golf place, the pier and arcade, the big diggers moving the sand around for some reason... We got dumped on at regular intervals, and the kids were, not surprisingly, losing patience with this lark!

We headed for the river side of town, where there was an Elizabethan House I thought we could shelter in, but we didn't quite make it. On our way, we saw the public library, which had a hexagonal Victorian pillar box outside! Definitely not a 1980s reproduction, this one! Arthur took these pictures, and I just love the one of the top of it! He couldn't even see what he was doing, but held the camera up and clicked, and managed to get a great picture, I think. These were taken after our half-hour of hanging out in the library while the clouds opened up once again.

We finally made it back to the train station and, with perfect connections, made it back to Cambridge in time for supper. And look, I got quite a bit done on sock #2 for Elaine (sock #1 has been finished for some time!). The stole is too big to carry around now, and the other socks are too fiddly, and this is easy!

It's another beautiful morning, but I'm taking my umbrella if I go out!

Monday, May 29, 2006

What next?

Ah, I am starting to wonder what will happen to Knitting on the Cam when I am no longer on the Cam! "Knitting not far from Bloor St"? "Knitting between the Humber and the Don"? And the more blogs I read, the more I realize all the good names are taken. All Tangled Up! Blithe Dance! Super Eggplant, fer chrissake!

Who doesn't wish they'd come up with the Yarn Harlot first, eh? Right now, when I'm with the sock, I love only the sock. When I'm with the stole, the stole is my Only One.
But then, some variegated ball of fluff comes along and tempts me away from my two "one true love" projects, and we end up, you know, spending time together.

I realize now that my infatuation was misguided, to say the least. This is mostly turquoise, not royal blue. This is too fluffy and wimpy, not woolly enough. And I had to rush into action with 3 7mm DPNs and a 6, being impatient to get at it! (No one will ever notice.)

Making 2 pompoms used up the last few meters of yarn, so there is none left to remind me of this lost weekend.... (Oh yeah, and I finished The Da Vinci Code... another misguided infatuation, perhaps...) Except it looks so cute on Elaine -- photo by Arthur -- I think I'll let her keep it, and not give it away for Xmas, as planned.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Some nice evening clouds for you. It's after 9 pm and it's still not dark. Getting close to the summer solstice. (Another sign of the change of seasons: they ripped out the spent tulips and fading primroses in the park. I expect new flowers any day.)

Not much knitting happening here. I have a hole in my finger from pushing on the too-long 2 mm sock needles! Also, I have been reading The Da Vinci Code, years after everyone else read it... No time to knit, must find Holy Grail....

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Spike update!

Stephen and Arthur were in London Tuesday and saw these spikes on St Paul's Cathedral, at the side of the main stairs. Fancy, eh? I'd say these would definitely keep thieves from hiding in the corner.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Toothpicks and drumsticks

I've now plunged into the Greenness of May. I am making Arthur some green socks on 2 mm needles, and this wrap for moi out of my Summer Tweed, mostly green with bits of other colours. It is based on the yoga wrap from VK last winter, but it will be just a stole, about 18 inches wide. (Yvonne made one, and Liz made most of one and took it all apart again!) This pattern is actually dead simple, so this is my casual, portable, easy project (I could work on it on Knit in Public Day, though I hope to be finished by then) and the socks are the concentration-demanding project. Also, it doesn't hurt if I poke myself with the 5 mm needles!

Arthur's socks actually have a name -- lots of people knit things with names, but I rarely do! They are called Swordfish, and are from this ancient Patons book. The pattern is over 19 stitches, which makes for a cuff like this: "(K2, P2) 3 times. *K1, P2 (K2, P2) 4 times* Repeat from * to * twice. K1. P2, K2, P2." Actually, it means that it's a K2,P2 rib, with one lone K1 stuck in there somewhere. I'm now (having done 2 whole repeats of the leg pattern) able to look at the knitting and know where I am. Still poking myself with the 8 teeny little ends, and thinking about that magic loop technique, which I always think of as using a too big needle for the project... Fewer pokey points, though...

This is one of our alternate routes home from school. I think it looks so green because of the Kaffe-esque pile-up of every green in the book. Green and white, green and yellow, yellowy green, dark green, purply green... They're all here.

And yesterday when we got to the bottom of this path, we found a royal barge and a couple of large rowboats, circa 16th century. I believe they were being used for the Cate Blanchett movie being filmed in St John's College and around town. Cool, eh? I wish I'd had a camera then, or this morning when we saw the boats being loaded onto trailers to be carted away. The big barge was cut in two! Luckily there was a url on the trailer, and I learned that the boats came from here. We didn't see any movie stars, though. I wonder if they'll be hanging out at the beer festival this week??

Friday, May 19, 2006

Evolution of the hexagonal pillar

Step 1: Some 62-65 million years ago, before knitting was invented, some lava flowed along in Northern Ireland and hardened, and cracked itself into the Giant's Causeway, a field of basaltic pillars, many very hexagonal in shape. (It's called that because of some giants who had a bit of a dispute. Here's their story, and an illustrated version. One of the giants lived on Staffa.) Stephen, who loves a good hexagon, went there recently to measure and photograph and GPS and get rained on.

Step 2: Ages pass. Round about 1866, a Mr J W Penfold invented the hexagonal pillar box for the British post office. They are quite attractive, and I have been thrilled and delighted every time I have run across one. Stephen took a picture of one at the hexagonal Giant's Causeway, and there is one on Iona, and there is one here in Cambridge outside King's College. Note the bobble-like things around the "lid," and the leafy bits going up to the "acorn" on top.

I was looking at the British Postal Museum and Archive, and was dismayed to read this:
"These pillar boxes, however, remain very popular and in 1989 copies of the Penfold were reintroduced at various historical and tourist sites."
Are we being duped? Are these Victorian pillar boxes not really Victorian?? Oh, no! Certainly all three we have seen are at historical and tourist sites... Must find that one in Kensington...

Step 3: At Christmas, 2005, I received a Victorian hexagonal pillar box teapot. It is like most other teapots I have known in that it would keep the tea hotter longer if it had a cosy! But to cover up the pillar-box-ness of it!? Obviously, a superior design of teacosy was in order... (Note the way the lid sticks way out over the body. Hmmm.)

Step 4: Mary buys some reddish and brownish tweed wool at the charity shop. Thinks it might just do the trick for the teacosy. Ponders the question.

What do you think? I'm very happy with it.

I have some gold silk that I could use to try to embroider the VR, but I am thinking that I would also like to felt it just a teeeeeeny tiny bit, which I would not do until I get home to my top-loading washer. So I won't embroider it just yet!

I left a big hole in the top for the gold acorn to stick out. My favourite part is the bobbles!

Tea party, anyone?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lots of little things

No pictures today, but I've actually finished a few little things. I did the sock and mailed them off to my mom. I finished knitting the tit bit, but need a teeny bit of stuffing so that's on the sidelines till next week. And I finished the teacosy, which I think I've never shown you a picture of... Soon!

So, I was about to start my next pair of socks. I'm going to make plain green socks for Arthur, but the pattern is for big ol' men's feet. 76 stitches! That's a lot of stitches for a kid, and since it's a textured pattern (oooh, it's lovely) I don't want to mess with it. So I thought I'd just make them on 2 mm needles instead of 2.25. But after I got the needles out and cast on a few wee stitches, I took a break! My gawd, those are small needles... I just needed a moment to collect my strength... I searched the stash (which takes seconds) and came up with a ball of beige Magpie and made another quickie charity hat on 4.5s. I hope that today I can get back to the toothpicks and start those socks!

Full colour reporting tomorrow, folks!

Monday, May 15, 2006

New shades, socks and cycles

We've had quite crappy weather for a few days, but last week was bright and sunny, and I was compelled to get the kids sunhats and shades. Check 'em out, baby! (Yeah, and on a nice sunny day, I wake up and say, "Hey great, I can put lots of laundry on the line!)

The real excitement, however, has got to be the almost-completion of these socks! I just have to graft the one toe, and we're set. The yarn has been perfect up to this very last point, when suddenly, instead of continuing purple (there are a few rows of purple right on the toe, but they don't show much in this pic) for several meters, it fades to white! And then the blue starts, which is not supposed to come in the pattern yet! So I'm going to have a little teeny line of white grafting looking stupid on the end of the toe... Grr. But lucky me, the one knot in the ball comes a few meters down the line, and didn't interrupt my socks!

I must share this with you: It's the Cycle Facility of the Month! Looking for a bike path that ends in a bollard, or is too narrow for a bike? Find it here! I think I discovered this via John's blog. The cycle lanes in Cambridge are pretty good, since there are about a bazillion million cyclists here, but still, there is room for improvement!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mostly knitting

First, the update on the growing stuff: the chestnut tree is growing like a weed! We had to take the ruler down, but you can see how much it has grown by looking at this from April 27. Wowza. Neighbours have kindly offered to plant it in their garden for us, but we shall keep it for a bit more. The huge chestnuts around town are in flower now, and look marvellous.

And the blossoms on the tree out front are fully out. It is a giant pinky puffball.

I got my two strips done for the baby blanket. I hope there are some plainer strips to counter these! A bit wild, but babies like that colour contrast stuff, and I even added a few bobbles for chewing. You can see that my attention span was waning on the second one... Quick, change patterns every few inches! And, you know, your gauge changes when you go from ribbing to moss stitch to lace! I power-blocked as best I could, and hope the wonkiness adds to the charm. I used up all the purple and had a teeny bit of the white left, so my excellent calculations and planning were spot-on. Yeah, sure... Anyways, it goes in the mail as soon as it's dry.

Another project almost done is my contribution to Rethinking Titbits. Which nipple/button do you think I should use? It's only a B-cup, and I think I shall have to make a bigger one as well. This yarn colour reminds me of sunburn, which is not very pleasant... I shall have to come up with a tiny bit of stuffing, and get those done and mailed off.

The weather has turned perfectly sunny and glorious (though the forecast for the weekend is crummy) and this is just when I would like to have my Summer Tweed made up into something nice. Grr. The to-do list is too long! I'm oppressed by my hobby! I could use a nice long train ride to get my striped sock done. (I'm doing the heel, and the soundtrack to this activity is the horribly annoying "Turn the Wheel, Isa" from Dora the Explorer. Funny how this song makes its way into people's heads.)

And on the subject of train rides, we are planning our trip to Cornwall for July. We are flying down there (but don't worry, there will be hanging-around-the-airport time for knitting) and were thinking of getting a car for touring around, since the train service is a bit sparse. Then I remember our trip to Mull and read things like this, and think it'd be better to stick to buses.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pretty tree

This is the tree in front of our house. It's a city tree, not on anyone's property, but on a patch of grass the city sends a giant mower around to every once in a while. This spring someone came and chain-sawed all the suckers off around the bottom. These flowers are a wonderful pale pink, and are just about perfect. Another day of sun is all we need... Last fall it dropped apple-like fruit, but I don't really know any more about it than that!

This is what it looks like from right underneath it! Photo by Arthur.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The jean jacket on the kid!

Look at this guy, eh? This is Hugh, the recipient of the denim jacket!

I got a whole load of pictures of this kid. Some show off the Ramones shirt he's wearing underneath, and some show off the sweater better and some show off the cute kid with dad in background, and some show kid chasing duck... but this one shows the smiling mom, which is always good, no? And her hair is delicious, too, it seems.

As we all see, this will fit him for a bit, but it's not as gigantic on him as I'd thought it would be.

Wow, two babies in one day! Cuteness indeed!

Back in action

Thanks for the sympathy about the tummy bug. It actually was over with quite fast, but then I didn't feel like eating for a day, and that's not the usual thing! I am more or less full strength now, though I'm wading through the laundry and dirty dishes from days and days, it seems.

Most of the dishes were actually generated last night, when we had a wee surprise party for Stephen! It was his birthday a week ago, but he was in Toronto, and then he was in Ireland for a few days. So yesterday I sent Elaine to divert him, and she took him downtown for the afternoon (though he thought he was taking her!) and Arthur and I made a cake and called a few friends. Thank goodness for cell phones, as Stephen and Elaine called to let us know they were on their way home, so Arthur and I left the river, where we were watching some boat races while the cake cooled, to rush home to make icing!
He was actually surprised, and we had cake and fruit, and Irish whiskey brought back from Bushmills! And the "big" kids looked at the laptop while I got to talk to this little friend, who usually sleeps, but last night was full of chatter and smiles!

And a bit of knitting has actually got done. This is a strip for a top-secret baby blanket. I doubt it has to be top secret on here, coz I doubt either parent is going to be reading this. This piece is all about colour, but I have 2 more balls of yarn, so will do texture next. Maybe the DNA, since that's what little babies are made of. Everyone is using the same 2 colours of yarn, but doing whatever patterns they like in their strips. Should be ok, doncha think?

And this is the state of the socks. Soon, soon! And look at those matching stripes!

Friday, May 05, 2006

"A sick mom is no use!"

Yes, indeed, a sick mom is not a good thing. I have been stricken with this icky tummy thing that has been going around. I just want to go to sleep.... I just am hoping that the kids don't get this, coz a mom has to deal with sick kids, and can't just go outside and play, like the kids can when the mom is sick! I'm so sick I haven't knitted! I did read this book (and I think I have the strength to find a link) Debs At War. It was pretty good, but as another reviewer points out, it's hard to keep straight who is who. But, interesting none the less.

And now I'm going to have a wee lie down.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Update on spikes

My secret source (a librarian friend) has come up with this explanation for the spikes in Senate House Passage. She asked the Cambridge Tourist Information Centre and they offered the idea that it was

"there to prevent thieves, muggers etc, from
hiding behind the building and jumping out on unsuspecting people. It
is a dark alleyway and would have been darker still in the 1800's..."

But no documentary proof! We will never give up! We need a picture of a mugger unable to find a hiding place! Or something!

The other day I noticed that my laundry presented yet another Project Spectrum opportunity! The green load...

Monday, May 01, 2006


It's green month on Project Spectrum. Yahoo. And here's a shield bug, looking very green on my very green plant.

I feel like I've been cranking out socks -- I'm done Elaine's sock #1 and am back on the stripey cotton ones. And once stripey #2 is done, I will start green socks, which will be new and different in a couple of ways. They will be a solid colour -- could be very boring and drive me crazy. But! They will have a textured pattern, which will keep me keen, and look so cool when done! Arthur says he doesn't want plain colour socks, and he's my fave recipient... I'll try to win him over. Otherwise, I've got quite the queue of socks to knit...

I did buy some yarn the other day. Sale bin fuzzy... Never again! Ack, it looks kinda nice in the ball, and I thought I would make a scarf for a gift, but the main thread is like nylon kite string (though I think it's polyester) and the fuzzy bits will shed under the slightest pressure. So it's a dead loss, I think. I can't bring myself to persist with it. Time's a-wasting here!

Yes, it's May and that means there are only ten more weeks before we move back to Canada! Do you know how many things we have to do and see (and knit!) in those ten short weeks? We have another school holiday at the beginning of June, and we plan to do short trips from here, to the Norfolk coast and local stately homes and so on, and we have a trip to Cornwall planned for just before we leave. But we haven't been to the Lake District or the Scottish Highlands or the White Cliffs of Dover or Hadrian's Wall or ... Perhaps we should think more locally and make a point of going to a new pub in town every week or two... That might be easier, and somewhat cheaper!

Happy May to everyone. I can't believe I wrote this whole thing before making coffee....