Monday, 23 November 2009

My new favourite toy

Everyone knows I loves the yarn. Fibre makes me happy, so I was excited to be doing a short course at the Anna Templeton Centre on Floor Loom Weaving. It's 5 weeks long - 4 hours every Saturday - and I'm past the half way mark. Week 3 was when I actually started weaving. The 8 hours' setup means that I will never again question why handwoven things are so expensive!

Week 1 was working out the project, choosing the yarn, and winding the warp. We had a whole wall of yarn to choose from:

But I went with these:

The next stage was winding the warps. This one's not actually mine - I forgot my camera the first week.

Week 2 was setting up the loom.

We're using Le Clerc Floor looms, which have 4 shafts and 6 treadles. I want one of these beasts, but I doubt I have the money or the space. Threading the reed, transferring it to the loom, and threading the heddles took an age and was back-breaking.

Eye wire heddles

Threaded heddles

Week 3 I actually started some weaving.

I had a yard extra for samples so I messed about with plain weave first. I was pretty pleased with the results but my edges are fairly dire. That's what hemming is for anyway!

My proper project is in twill, so I'll post those when I'm a bit further on. I can say I'm very happy with the results though - not bad for a first try :)

Lost voice

It's finally happened. My accent has changed. I was hoping to survive unscathed but alas it was not to be. I haven't gone Canadian - my sentences don't all end with 'eh', and I haven't picked up such mannerisms as 'where're you to' (though I quite like that one). Nope, I've gone posh.

When I first arrived I was in a lab with all Newfoundlanders (as opposed to my other half, who's shacked up with a huge European contingent). Most of the time we got on fine but one guy just didn't have a clue what I was saying. To be fair I couldn't really understand him either. We both used far too much slang and spoke too fast.

In shops I either had people look at me like I was crazy or gush at how exotic I was. This seems to be the main divide in my experience. It's really embarrassing to stand there while the secretary in your department tells you how wonderful your voice is and that she could listen to you all day. Believe me, she'd soon get bored. On the other hand it's infuriating to ask an unlabelled person in a shop whether they work there 6 times and just have them gape at you like you're some kind of freak then get annoyed with you.

As a result I seem to have inadvertantly dropped the slang and poshed right up. So much so that I can't remember how to speak with my normal accent. I was already pretty well-spoken so it wasn't a giant leap, but now I can't go back without speaking to someone from home. Liam has started to mock me on how ridiculous I sound. As a result, it's also made me pretty angry everytime I meet a 'gusher'. On exiting the cinema last week after watching 'In The Loop' a woman walked past, grabbed my arm and said "ooh you could have been in the film"! I wanted to hit her. Possibly an overreaction but it was a bloody stupid thing to say. Do you find me exiting Hollywood blockbusters and, on hearing a North American accent, blather on about how they could have been the star? No, I do not. Because I am not a twat.

So, my mission now is to regain my accent at all costs, but without going too far in the opposite direction. No-one loves a cod-cockney.

Rant over.


Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The importance of play

I often joke that I would never want to be below the age of 25 again. My formative years were the 1980s and I have some fairly horrific fashion mistakes to blank out, but I also dimly remember some good times wedged somewhere between the geeky angst and the ski pants with bodysuit and deck shoes combos.

Thinking back to my childhood pastimes I have three particular favourites:

1) Duetting with myself.

As a youngster I was a bit of a musician (and still am occasionally). In junior school I used to play the recorder, and this is the reason that I have never performed in a school play - I was always the accompaniment. At home I never liked practicing, as I preferred to play in groups. As people would rarely want to play along* I used to tape record myself playing one part of the duet, then play it back and play along the other half. I don't know whose idea this was. It was probably suggested by one of my parents to shut me up, but I like to think it was my own ingenious idea. And it worked brilliantly! I spent hours at this at a time, and would still if I had a cassette recorder and my trusty book of Handel and Telemann recorder duets.

(*I blamed their lack of skill, others may argue it's because I didn't really have many friends!)


2) Making patterns

I love art, but was never as fond of drawing 'real' things as I was abstract patterns. I loved my Spirograph, which always was great until the last turn, when it would bounce off and ruin my otherwise perfect squiggles. My set was bigger than this one, with more different sizes. I think it is lost in the wilderness somewhere now... tragic...

Another firm favourite was my Altair Design books. I think these must have been hand-me-downs as I'm pretty sure we had this exact copy, but they were amazing and instilled in me a love of geometric islamic art. I wish I had one now.


3) The 'Worcester Sauce Contest'

When I was an early teen, my friend Mel and I used to do terrible things with food. One of which was to get the deep fat fryer out and deep fry *everything* in her mum's larder freezer, smother it all with ketchup and vinegar, and scoff to our hearts' content (I shudder to think of the calorie content of one sitting).

The second was the Worcester Sauce Contest. We'd crack open a tin of baked beans or spaghetti hoops, then we'd add as much Worcester Sauce and vinegar as we thought we could take, microwave until nuclear, then see who cried first. For those aware of my hot pepper and pickle obsession, all may be becoming clearer...


So - music, art and food. Not much has changed in 30 years :)


Monday, 26 October 2009

Recent projects #2

I've been a bit quiet of late. Not because I haven't had anything to post about, but more through shame. I'm reluctant to post about projects I've finished when I still feel guilty about not finishing the present I was making for the lovely Lisa's 30th birthday months ago. Lisa - I'm really sorry! I promise you'll get it before Christmas...

I've been being fairly experimental, trying to learn new techniques:

This, believe it or not, is supposed to be a sand dollar...

I've also been mucking about with recycled yarn and made a few crochet scrubbies:

I also messed about with colour work (don't look too closely - it's fairly rubbish) with this Charles Rennie Mackintosh sample:

In terms of garments I was pleased with these:

This 'Mudstone' shawl used the Old Shale* stitch and some lovely soft merino tweed wool that my marvellous brother bought me for my birthday this year. It now resides in my office where it routinely keeps me warm when the university fails to put the heating on.

(* According to one of the Earth Science profs here, there is no such rock as shale - they are all mudstones...)

This Urchin beret used to be a cardigan. (Note also my new favourite t-shirt.)

These Maggie arm/hand warmers are also made from the other tweed bought by Stef for my birthday. My very first invisible joins. I feel quite proud.

And finally, the Wispa cardigan. It cost me about 50 cents to buy the crappy acrylic fibre at a sale in the Anna Templeton Centre. It's not perfect, and if I do it again I'd make several changes, but overall not bad...

I have a few other things on the go (not least the mystery late birthday present), including my first pair of socks and my first lace. However, I appear to have destroyed my hands in making my Halloween costume for next Friday, and I'm only about a quarter of the way through. Doh!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Two go wild in Newfoundland (part 2)

Continuing my discovery of the joys of foraged food, I heard last week that there was a great patch of blueberries up on Signal Hill. Wild blueberries not being something you see in the UK (though small numbers do exist, apparently), I was keen to go see what it was all about.

We were only up there for an hour and a half, and we collected 5 cups-worth of blueberries. We could have had an awful lot more but I didn't want to be too greedy. Besides, I had no idea what to do with them.

After some deliberation I decided I'd try and make some jam, despite being a complete novice, and it seems to have turned out pretty well. I only did enough to make one jar, given that it was my first attempt.


I used:

3 cups blueberries
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/8 cup lime juice (it's supposed to be lemon, but we'd run out)

I mashed half the berries in a pan, then added the rest of the ingredients. The mush was then boiled on a medium heat for half an hour or so, till it started to thicken.

I then poured it into a clean, heated jam jar and covered with cling film.


It seems to be setting (touch wood). This is a relief as I didn't use pectin, partly because I didn't want to, and partly because I didn't have any. Apparently it's not necessary though, and lemon juice or the addition of apples or redcurrants will do the same job.

I couldn't wait for it to cool properly, and I just dolloped some slightly runny blueberry goo on some ice cream. I can report that it tastes pretty damn good, though the berries are a wee bit chewy.

I'm loving this free food lark! We still have 2 cups left, which have been put into the freezer. I'm thinking I may try these for size.


Two go wild in Newfoundland (part 1)

I've always been a fan of the great outdoors, but I realised this week how little I actually utilise the outdoor larder. I used to fruit pick *very* occasionally in the wasteground where we walked the dog, but this was a long time ago, we only picked a few to eat on the way, and I've not even thought about it since I was about 8 years old.

This week I visited the Burin peninsula as part of a project I'll be working on this coming autumn. Whilst there we stayed in a cabin which was part of a larger campground in Frenchman's Cove. Wandering the grounds we found these marvellous things absolutely everywhere:

Had I not been with a man who knew his mushrooms, I doubt I would have had a clue. Now I feel like a chanterelle expert. Chanterelle mushrooms cost a fortune in the shops and here they were ripe for the picking, and with the campers around seemingly oblivious, this meant more for us.

Here's just a couple of tips about Chanterelles I have learned this week:
  • When you collect them, don't pick them. If you cut them off with a knife they will grow back again next year (this goes for all types of mushroom).
  • Chanterelles can be distinguished from their slightly more toxic 'false' counterpart (not fatal - they'll just give you a bad stomach) by their undersides. The false chanterelle has lines which go all the way from stem to edge unbroken. Real chanterelles branch (see pic below).
  • When you prepare them, absolutely do *not* wash them. They will soak up the water like a sponge and taste really bland. Instead use a brush to remove dirt.

We cooked them up and had them alongside some fresh fish caught that morning, which we witnessed being gutted and filletted on the beachside. The ones I brought back I fully intend to either risotto-ise or cook up with garlic for a lovely side.

Food miles? What are they?


Thursday, 6 August 2009

Summer hiatus

This summer has probably been one of the most action-packed of recent years. Back in the days of university and, in particular, the dreaded thesis (*shudder*), summer holidays were in short supply and I think I went about 6 years without one (not counting parental visits).

This year, though, I've been operating the 'change is as good as a rest' policy, as I've been travelling all over, but not actually having any proper holiday time. I left Newfoundland in mid June to return to my alma mater. This was originally supposed to have been to prepare for our fieldwork in Libya, but due to a hiccup with Visas we ended up organising a field season in Croatia instead. A week after I arrived in Birmingham I began the 3 day drive to Hrvatska, accompanied only by a vast array of machines that go *bing*, and a passenger with a great knowledge of Roman North Africa and early Christian churches, but no driving licence.

What followed was an epic catalogue of disasters. We should have known something was up when we were met in Germany by torrential rain and roadworks. It seemed the entire road network through Germany, Austria, and Slovenia was under construction. Still, we made good time and arrived in Split only to get horribly lost in the one way system due to the 'European' coverage sat nav - Mrs Miggins - only operating as far as the Austrian-Slovenian border.

The first couple of days we went out to
Sveti Spas in the Cetina Valley, only to be met by the bura (the wind that is alleged to send you mad) and some rather wet weather. Whilst not generally an obstacle for the archaeologist, when 3D scanning it is generally not helpful to have your targets blowing over and the laser bouncing off of raindrops. Serves us right for having too much whizzy equipment. We left one scan short of completing the church.

A rare break in the weather

The rest of the fieldwork, though, consisted of work in the city of Split which was great, if a little difficult working through the tourist throngs and avoiding lightning strikes during one of the worst Mediterranean summers in decades. It also involved a fair degree of extreme archaeology, and my vertigo was a bit of an issue on a number of occasions.

It's higher than it looks.

Being so reliant on technology is also a problem when the processing software licences run out the day you arrive, and your colleague drops the hard drive on the floor causing a strong burning smell and smoke. The nail in the coffin, though, was the news that our GPR specialist had contracted swine flu and was unable to travel. This meant double shifts for the poor geophysicists who were already starting at 5am.

Aside from the various setbacks, the trip was successful and good results were had by all. The drive home was not too horrendous and I treated myself to a marvellous massage once back in Brum. I still reckon I could have charged it to the project.

There then followed 2 weeks of data processing and a huge number of curries, whilst I awaited the arrival of my new Canadian work permit. Lunching with the ladies every day was a real treat and gave me time to catch up on the gossip, and I passed my 32nd birthday with no major incident.

Staying at the
Pinder-Wakelam Hostelry was a delight and I still can't believe they put up with me for so long. If only all B&Bs accepted DIY odd jobs and occasional singalongs as payment. I also squeezed in a trip to see the folks in Wales and also one to Bristol where I failed to go see the Banksy exhibition due to the extraordinary queues. I did go to the marvellous Windmill Hill City Farm, though, with my dear brother and nephews. It's sad to hear that the farm is in financial trouble as it's a top notch place. A quick catch up with Trish and Olly gave me my first taste of Settlers of Catan, and I can now safely concur that it is rather ace, especially as I won.

Then via London where I met up with the lovely
Jo Weeks, soprano extraordinaire, and then abused the hospitality of published author and common-law-brother-in-law Mr Paul Herringshaw. What circles I move in.

Once back in the New-found-land I volunteered to go digging on the
Signal Hill historic site. As a combination of climbing a massive hill every morning and not having excavated in about 8 years, it was a bit of a shock to the system and I spent most evenings popping ibuprofen and whinging to Liam. This is particularly annoying as I am also no fitter or lighter than when I started. It was good fun though, and a real change to (1) actually find stuff (being an historic site stuff has had less time to degrade and material culture is a bit more profuse), and (2) get back to basics after the technological orgy of the Croatian field season. There's certainly a lot less potential for catastrophe. An added bonus was that the site was well-placed for whale spotting, as I saw three (a single and a pair), puffing away just off the coast. I also apparently made an appearance on the CBC news, though lacking a television I was unable to bask in the glory such fame brought.

A long way above sea level.

Today was my last day as backfilling is tomorrow and, as a volunteer, I am excused duty. I am now back to my normal life of emails and obsessively checking Facebook. Posts after today will return to the usual inane comments on my latest knitting project. That is all.


Friday, 5 June 2009


Since coming to St John's I have seemingly grown exponentially. I don't know whether it's the weather or just getting older, but the fact remains that I am many pounds heavier than when I arrived.

So, given my previous success with it, I've decided to go back on Weight Watchers. I'm not going to meetings, just trying to count points. As I gave away my previous points-finding gadgets (i.e the cardboard thingumy) I looked online to find widgets to work out what it is I'm actually eating and I thought I'd share...

The formula is seemingly protected by patent but is also publicly available on several websites, and so I've linked to the image on the website:


p = Points; c = Calories; f = grammes of fat; and r = grammes of Dietary fibre

For the rest of the world, this translates into the following excel formula:

2(enter)(enter)(enter)= (A2/50)+(B2/12)-(IF(C2>4,4/5,C2/5))

Just plonk in the numbers on the side of the packet and Bob's your Uncle.

Hope this may come in useful for some of you, not that I'm suggesting you need to, of course!

*PS the big gap i
s accidental, not enigmatic, and purely down to poor HTML skills. What can I say, the preview doesn't do it!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Rockin' in the Free World

I am the sort of gig-goer who loves seeing bands, but rarely is on top of the music scene enough to know what's going on. As such I am very dependent on other people to point out interesting events, and my attendance consequently depends on where I am and who I happen to be hanging around with at the time.

Back in Birmingham I saw quite a few bands of varying famosity*, from my friends doing open mic (yay Nick!), up to big bands that would sell out the venue. Here, however, I'm not really sure what is going on musically at all. I'm sure this will change soon though...

*(I clearly just made that word up but couldn't think of the right one)

Newfoundland appears not to be the destination of choice for most big names, which is a real shame as I was hoping to get the chance to see people that might not come to England. The highlights coming up at the Mile One Stadium are Dancing with the Priests (you think I'm joking?), Monster Trucks, and Bill Clinton (what was his biggest number one again?). I guess it's not really surprising as St John's is a bit out of the way compared to Toronto or Vancouver. Also, people here seem much more prepared to travel long distances to see big bands, so there's less incentive for them to come to us. This is quite different to home where everything is more compact - I used to baulk at the idea of going to Wolverhampton.

Anyway, this is why when Neil Young announced that he was beginning his tour here I was quite excited. I know a few of his songs, but I wouldn't say I was a massive fan. I am the sort of person that would get to the end of a gig by him and wonder why he hadn't sung 'A horse with no name'. Despite this, it was rather ace. Turns out I knew much more than I thought. For a man who has recently had a brain aneurysm he was remarkably sprightly, and rocked out quite spectacularly.

Now I feel that I need to document for posterity the bands I have seen, and who I absolutely must see before it's too late. Trouble is, I can't remember a thing. I shall have to start a list.


Thursday, 26 March 2009

Fahrenheit 451

I love books. I may be in the slow readers' club, but I love books. I may also be a Web 2.0 whore-fiend, but I always prefer to read from something tangible. You would never catch me with a Kindle.

A few things have happened this week which have really riled me.

Annoyance #1:

Having moved abroad I am now making a lot more use of libraries for my reading material. I love owning books, and my academic book collecting is becoming something of a 'problem', but as I know I have to return home sometime with the same number of suitcases as I came with, I can't buy too many ... or any. I'm applying the same principle to novels, but the only problem is that my library is a University one, which means I run the risk of getting out a novel which is required reading for someone's course. Cue the annoyance.

Some might say that checking out a book by a well-known Canadian author in a Canadian university was asking for it, but really! Every page was covered in different coloured pen, pointless underlining of pretty much every word that wasn't "and" or "the". Scribbled notes down the margin about the great importance of a particular line. I gave up after about 4 pages as it was just too distracting and, frankly, upsetting.

This isn't a comment about Canadian students, it's ALL students, or at least a large percentage of them. Every book I've ever checked out of a university library - bar the most obscure publications that only I would be interested in - has been annotated to some degree. There are a few reasons why this might be:

1) the student lacks the ability to parse information and take notes (or just can't be bothered)
2) the student thinks they might be doing other students a favour (never mind that other students have different research questions and may be looking for different things, but now can't get past the inane scrawlings)
3) the student has no respect for other people's property
4) the student is clearly a twat

The defacing of a book, especially one that is not yours, upsets me. This action tells me that, whilst you are happy to use a public resource for your own gain, you are now going to ruin that enjoyment for anyone else that might want to read it after you. It's extraordinarily selfish.

There are exceptions. Required reading for a course that you have bought with your own money, and is, for example, a mass-produced Penguin copy, is fair game for your notes and underlinings. This is your own property, bought for a specific purpose (i.e. to pass English A-level) and so it makes sense to use it for the purpose for which it was acquired, but you wouldn't do it with a first edition.

I am on the fence about Joe Orton's antics. Whilst I agree that his defacing of public library books as a comment on the poor quality of most reading literature at a Leicester an Islington Public Library had an artistic point, who was he to decide what was and was not good quality? Phyllis Hambledon isn't my idea of a good read, but many people's first steps towards more meaningful literature might begin with the 'less sophisticated', or simply enjoyed for its own sake. Not all books have to be great works of art.

Anyway, this made me mad, and I had to return the book.

Annoyance #2

Everyone knows I am craft fiend, and can't get enough of trying new techniques and making new things. However, I draw the line at cutting up books. I have seen quite a few tutorials for making secret 'hidden' boxes by cutting a well into the pages of a book (this one, for example, or this one for an alternative use). This wouldn't be so bad, but the books being used are invariably old hardbacks, with character, and with a lot more life left in them. They are never new mass-produced paperbacks. To me it is criminal to destroy these books for the sake of creating something that might be a little bit useful, or pretty, but ultimately is a dreadful waste.

Annoyance #3

I was never one for watching/reading the news a great deal. 'Teh interwebs' have changed that in me, by making it all so much more accessible. I accidentally beat the bandwagon jumping on Twitter by signing up ages ago for fun and frolics on the Birmingham emergent game, and have kept it up ever since. Now it is becoming more prolific there are lots of interesting people to follow and tonnes of interesting news items cross your path. It's a miracle I ever do any work really.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. Recently, Neil Gaiman posted a link on his Twitter feed to this article. I was utterly shocked. I realise it's primarily in the US, but ridiculousness like this has a habit of catching on in Britain, and there will be inevitable knock-on effects, even without similar legislation.

Essentially all children's books printed before 1985 can't be sold or bartered (unless considered to be collectors' items, cue a massive hike in selling price!). This is due to the lead in the printing ink (in the text, not just the illustrations). This means that public libraries and charity shops across the country are having to ditch their stock (landfill, burning, etc) as it is prohibitively expensive to have each one checked for safe levels of lead content.

I had seen that there had been outcries prior to this regarding the CPSIA legislation (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008) due to its impact on cottage-industry toy manufacturers, but nothing about books. I imagine that the worst hit will be those books that are too young to be collectors' items, but old enough to be included in the ban. I find it incredible that the terrible consequences of this law on all sectors wasn't fully appreciated as it was being passed. Fingers crossed the rally being planned actually has some impact!

Ok, rant over. I know, you get it, I love books, but these things have made me fume this week, and that is not something I do lightly.


Thursday, 12 March 2009

7 things...

My brother is evil, and has tagged me in a meme. But, I love procrastination so here goes:


1) Unlike my brother's seemingly amazing athletic ability, I achieved the worst time in the year for the 1500m when I was 15. I took an incredible 32 minutes.

2) On my first weekend in Rome I accidentally drunkenly stalked Harrison Ford, then stood back and watched whilst my friend Sophie shook his hand saying "it's fucking great to meet you, I'm a real archaeologist" (*cringe*). I thought every weekend would be like that, but I never saw another famous person for the two years I was there.

3) Continuing on the 'star' theme, I (and my brother) once met Zammo from Grange Hill in the queue to go down a mineshaft whilst on holiday in Yorkshire in the mid 80s. I think he was with his parents and a bit embarrassed. I have photographic evidence.

4) I am in the slow readers' club.

5) Despite being in the slow readers' club, I have some VERY IMPORTANT* academic publications which appear on Amazon: here and here, and a chapter in here. I never tire of googling myself.

*The only people who have ever cited me, however, are my friends... for a joke.

6) I can roll my tongue (in both senses), can only just cross my eyes, can only raise my left eyebrow, not my right, and cannot wiggle my ears. I fear this has stunted my development in many areas of my life.

7) I am never happier than when watching shit on tv. By shit I mean most sci-fi and primetime dramas, not reality tv and daytime soaps. I could be lying though, eating is also top. Ok, I am never happier than when watching shit on tv, whilst feeding my face with fajitas.


In order to share the meme misery, I shall now tag some more people (*evil cackle*), though I fully expect them to ignore it, as I should have.


Monday, 9 March 2009

Adventures in Baking

Since my last disasters in cooking, I've been a little reluctant to step out of familiar territory. Recently, however, I've been getting up the nerve to try again. The price of food here has meant that I've been quite keen to do some home-cooked versions of the staples.

We started out with the Darwin fishcake, but have since moved onto muffins and cookies aplenty. These have mostly worked, with a few exceptions, mostly due to our odd oven. Because the element is at the bottom, everything burns underneath. I've been advised to put in an extra baking tray underneath to disperse the heat, but things are still going black :(

What I was particularly keen to try, though, was bread baking. I tried my first loaf on Saturday but things went a little wrong. We were having a housewarming party and we took on a little too much with the preparation. As a result the bread was still rising when the first guests arrived. Quite a few cocktails intervened and I forgot to bake it, and didn't return to it until lunchtime the next day. I thought I'd still give it a go, but we ended up with a rather flat loaf that absolutely reeked of white wine (not what I wanted with my hangover)! We reluctantly binned it and I worked out the many and varied reasons why the loaf had done this. Accidentally leaving it to rise on the oven heat outlet was probably not my best idea. Anyway, my second attempt yesterday seemed to actually work. It was a wholemeal oaty bread, and it didn't fully rise, but was still pretty tasty (if a bit dense). I have plans to do it better next time.

We also found some Hobnobs in Auntie Crae's for the alarming price of $4.13 and so I searched out a recipe. They're still cooling downstairs but I've already taste-tested them. They just need a thin covering of chocolate and they'll be complete. So much for my diet...


Thursday, 5 March 2009

What do you call someone who collects maps?

... a nerd.

Or so says WikiAnswers. I was trying to find out what the official name for a map collector is and this is all I came up with. Cartophily, which is what I'd assumed, is actually the term for someone who collects cigarette cards. Perhaps a cartographile?

Anyway, you'll notice I've had a quick redesign. I'd got a bit bored of the pink, and I decided that my slight obsession with historic maps deserved an outlet, albeit a very small one.

Liam and I have been attempting to make our mark on the rented house we're in, and so have been on the look out for good posters. We've done pretty well, with a blow up of an old 1930s Newfoundland stamp showing codfish. This is the real thing, but you can just about make out our poster in the previous post, behind my hat.

And we've also sourced a couple of prints of historic maps. There's this one of the fishing banks in the 17th century:

As well as the Icelandic Skálholt map from 1570, which shows Britain, Iceland, Greenland, Baffin Island/Labrador and Newfoundland.

I got very excited, however, after chatting to the folks at the Map Library at MUN, as they directed me to this fabulous site of theirs, which has loads of historic scanned maps of the area available to download free! This is where I filched the map for my header.

Now, if only I had a printer...


Recent Projects

Last night I finished two items I'd been working on. This has never happened before so I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement... then I realised how tragically sad I've become. Moving here, being quite poor due to a short term contract, and not knowing huge numbers of people (yet) has meant that most nights are spent knitting or crocheting furiously whilst Liam reads a book - especially as we don't have cable tv (i.e. we have a telly but no reception, Liam is very pleased with this situation).

Anyway, I thought I'd share some of the recent projects I've finished since being here.

First was Liam's "Simon Cowl", quickly knitted in 3x3 rib on a 5mm circular needle in Paton's Soy Wool Stripes. I had to line it with some fleece I obtained from an old scarf from Value Village (a charity shop superstore for UK readers) as it was a bit itchy and also for extra warmth in adverse weather conditions. I think the stripes worked out pretty well (and he wears it most days, so it can't be that bad!).

Second was a hat for me. I'm bored of wearing my tweed peaked cap (especially as I keep hitting Liam in the face with it when I want to give him a peck on the cheek), and I often have my hair up which causes problems with other hats I own. So, I made the Star-Crossed Slouchy Beret by Natalie Larson (a free Ravelry download). I used smaller needles due to my notorious pin head, but it's still a bit big. It'll do for now though...

My favourite so far though is the crochet Sidesaddle Cluster Pullover from the Loop-d-Loop Crochet book. I really like that I now know how to crochet matching buttons using plastic curtain rings.

I have another project that is 90% done, which is my Cabled jumper that I started over Christmas. This is another free pattern. Typically I didn't have the right needles so did it on smaller ones, but this had led to the nightmare scenario that I have now RUN OUT OF WOOL! Gah! This is despite changing the arms to make them narrower. I can't seem to find anything remotely similar here so have tasked a friend back in Brum to find me some to post. Fingers crossed. If she can't find me some I may have to unravel it and start again on bigger needles. I might cry if that happens...

Friday, 20 February 2009

Shake it like a Poladroid picture

I have become obsessed. Yet again.

This time it is with my new camera. I recently bought a new digital camera after a whole lot of trauma due to credit cards and billing/shipping addresses not matching. One of the many hazards of being a Brit abroad. Anyway, I eventually bought it in an actual shop (*gasp*) this past weekend and have been snapping away left, right, and centre. This, however, is not the obsession.

I recently upgraded to being a Pro on Flickr (sadly this doesn't actually provide you with a great improvement on your photographic skills, just more storage space). On idly flicking around I found Poladroid. It's free software that you use to create Polaroid-like images. It's great, you drag your image onto the icon of the camera, it spits out a photo, then you can shake the picture using your mouse and it slowly develops. Whether or not shaking the image actually succeeds in speeding up development time is unknown, but 1) it's fun, 2) you can sing 'Hey-Ya' loudly whilst doing it and, more importantly, 3) it really annoys Liam!

"Shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it shake it..."

You can can take samples of the image at any point during the developing, and even add scratches/fingerprints to give aging effects. Anyway, here are my three favourites so far. I've cropped them but you get the idea...

Icy Window:

The rainy view out of our front window:

A random crow:

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Happy Birthday Charles #2


Here is the finished item. Hope it tastes ok - there was an issue with the baking powder...

Happy Birthday Charles

Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. I was rather surprised to hear last night that Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were exactly the same age. In my mind Lincoln was very much of an older period in history than Darwin, but it seems it's not true at all, just a construct of my own mind. Liam decided last night that this was because Darwin is seen as the beginning of a modern age so I was simply associating him with being 'younger', whilst Lincoln is all big hats and civil war. I wonder why his birthday isn't being made a deal of?

In the spirit of evolution, this is me as an australopithecene. You can devolve yourself on this Open University web site, which is quite fun, except that it was male only and I ended up with a large beard in most of the iterations. Hey ho! No change there then...

That aside, in celebration, Liam and I decided to do some baking. We used Delia's recipe for all-in-one-sponge cake and got busy with the icing. It took two goes at making the icing as we were relying on internet recipes. The first batch was a disturbing lumpy mess that kept separating. The second was more successful and we managed to use a ziploc bag as a pipe. It's quite fun, if a bit messy when the bag explodes at the top and you get icing all over your nice lambswool cardigan.

So here are some photos (apologies for the quality - they're from a phone):

This is our amazing giant 60s cooker. I love it!

The outline in baking parchment:

After the icing sugar has been sifted over the outline, and the piping begins!

More piping:

Liam attacks the edge:

You'll have to wait for the final photo as Liam is withholding it from me, for reasons unknown.

More soon!